I grew up in
Brookline, MA but spent a year of high school studying abroad in Zaragoza,
Spain. When I came back from my year abroad I was looking for something to
do for the summer where I could speak Spanish, and through a family friend
ended up volunteering in the Emergency Department of Children’s Hospital Boston
on two research studies. I loved the fast-paced environment of the ED and
interacting with patients.
Then I went to Wesleyan University and studied
history, literature, and philosophy in a program called the College of Letters.
It was a great education, but ultimately I realized I wanted to have a career
that was more practical and hands-on than theoretical (my husband is an English
professor at Boston College, so that’s his domain). After college I worked in a
pharmacogenetics lab at Massachusetts General Hospital for two years and spent one year completing a
pre-medical post-baccaluareate program before starting at Harvard Medical
The first year
of medical school we took a health care policy class - we are one of the few
medical schools to have a formal policy course that is required. The class
broadened my awareness of issues facing our healthcare system, like escalating
costs. I soon realized that this was the issue I wanted to work on in medicine.
I didn’t yet know what kind of physician I wanted to be, but I knew that
this issue of increasing costs would affect me and my patients regardless of
the specialty I ended up choosing.
The best advice
I got about pursuing an MD and an MBA was to do it, and to do it while I
was still in medical school. As Harvard Medical students, we can do an MBA at
HBS in just one extra year instead of two, which makes it an attractive
I saw an MBA as a way to learn about the financial side
of organizations and about issues that are
new to healthcare, but that other industries have dealt with for decades - like
customer satisfaction, efficiency, and providing quality service for a
reasonable cost. Even though these are some of the biggest
issues in medicine today, we don’t learn how to address them in medical school,
because fundamentally medical school is geared towards teaching students how to
be competent individual clinicians.
On the one
hand, this makes sense: there is a lot of clinical medicine to learn, and
everyone wants doctors who are excellent clinicians taking care of them. On the
other hand, leaders in medicine need more than excellent clinical skills to
improve our current healthcare environment: they need clinical insight combined
with effective leadership skills and an understanding of the broader healthcare
There are many
people I look up to who are doing impactful work on healthcare costs. One is
Neel Shah, who I have been working with throughout my time in medical school.
Neel doesn’t shy away from big problems or big questions, like why the
C-section rate has increased by 700% in one generation of women. Right now I’m
working on a project with Neel and with Bob Kaplan’s group here at HBS looking
at costs in childbirth. It’s been a fantastic way for me to bring my clinical
knowledge together with what I’m now learning at HBS.
One thing I’ve
really enjoyed so far at HBS is how much emphasis the school puts on
cultivating leadership skills, like effectively managing teams, compared to
medical school, where there is no formal training around these skills. I think this is really important and part of why MD/MBAs will be well poised to address many of the challenges
facing American healthcare.
I’ve met a lot
of medical students who say they want to get an MBA but can’t really pinpoint
why me, why this, why now. For people considering an MD/MBA, my
advice is to figure out why you want to do it and how you think it
will help you reach your long-term goals.