Spine surgeons should 'marry the best of business with the best of medicine'


Spine and orthopedic surgeons may benefit from earning an MBA along with their medical training.

A business degree can help spine surgeons who want to start their own practice or work somewhere where they can have ownership stake with a group, according to spine surgeon Stephen Hochschuler, MD.

"I went to medical school at Harvard and I kept saying, 'Why don't we send our guys six to eight weeks to Harvard Business School?' Dr. Hochschuler told Becker's. "That was 50 years ago. I was 50 years too soon. We need to know business, and the smart physicians will take the time and get an MBA and work in the business/medical realm. I was criticized years ago for trying to marry the best of business with the best of medicine." 

MBAs among orthopedic surgeons are becoming more popular, according to a survey published in May 2021 in Orthopedic Reviews. Researchers surveyed 157 orthopedic surgeons, and the majority of them said an MBA was either "extremely valuable" or "valuable."

Another survey of 127 orthopedic surgeons with MBAs found nearly all of them are still practicing clinically, according to a study published in December 2019 in Orthopedic Reviews. And almost all of them are fellowship-trained. 

While there are many motivating factors for pursuing a business degree, Dr. Hocschuler said prioritizing the patient should be top priority.

"But you gotta play the game, and you got to be involved," Dr. Hochschuler said. "You have to look at what's next … So now when you bring business knowledge into the medical realm, tie it in with logic, and the No. 1 criterion, we've always stressed this is not how much money the doctor makes. It's not how famous the guy is. It's not how much the insurance makes or doesn't make. It's not the attorney, it's the patient. The only one that people should focus on is the patient. Next to the patient should be the doctor, and all the rest is ancillary." 

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