“The case method is a stellar way to engage people and expand their capabilities.”

Even as she worked in investment banking and hedge funds, Sophia Virani felt drawn to science and medicine. "I really wanted to be in a career that was more service oriented, that allowed me to interact with people," she says. Sophia volunteered in hospitals and in a health care clinic for the homeless, then she learned about the joint MD/MBA program at Harvard. "It brought my health care and business interests together," Sophia says. "As an investment banker, I had looked at ways to turn businesses around. I see similar opportunities in health care that the MBA can help me explore."

Advantages of a joint degree

"The joint degree prepares me to practice medicine and direct management," Sophia says. "The MBA component will refine my thinking—it will encourage me to synthesize information and strategies from a variety of industries." She is especially interested in developing ways to improve health care quality and patient outcomes. "I'll be exposed to business techniques that I can apply to health care challenges," she says.

Direct class observation has also given Sophia an appreciation for participatory learning. "The case method is a stellar way to engage people and expand their capabilities," she says. "It forces you to appreciate different ways of thinking, to consider opinions you wouldn't have come up with on your own."

Creating constructive relationships

After completing her residency, Sophia would like to serve in an administrative role in a teaching hospital. "With so many players—from insurance, foundations, and academics to diverse patient populations—teaching hospitals present interesting and challenging dynamics," Sophia says. She sees the section experience as an important part of her leadership training. In addition to providing "invaluable contacts for the future," the close-knit quality of the section serves as a great model for effective teamwork The HBS social environment, Sophia believes, "will help me establish a cooperative vision at a hospital. I'll be better prepared to inspire my colleagues, to lead many doctors in a common effort."