July 29, 2005

New MBA program focuses on health care

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Fred Bess, Ph.D.

New MBA program focuses on health care

Responding to marketplace demand for health care leaders with advanced and specialized education, Vanderbilt University is creating a health care MBA program that will give students access to the combined expertise of the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and some of the country's most innovative health care companies.

The inaugural class will begin taking classes in the new program this fall. Participating students still will earn a traditional MBA with a concentration in a discipline such as finance, management, operations or marketing, but those electing to earn the Vanderbilt Health Care MBA will commit to a rigorous curriculum requiring more health care-specific courses than any other program of its kind in the nation.

The program was designed in concert with a panel of health care industry leaders who expressed the need for a different kind of graduate business education. The Owen School responded with a unique curriculum that will produce graduates ready to be productive in the health care field from the first day.

“Health care executives told us that, because of the unusual and complex nature of their industry, graduates who will have immediate impact will need not only an MBA, but one that has exposed them to considerably more about the way their industry operates,” said Owen School Dean Jim Bradford. “The demand for employees who can really make a difference is growing: Health care now represents 15 percent of our nation's gross domestic product, and costs are rising unabated. One out of 12 Americans works in the health care industry. Yet, the quality of our health care system overall continues to decline.

“What health care needs are leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources to handle the challenges facing the industry — those with a solid foundation in business basics but with a comprehensive understanding of how the health care system works. That's what the experts told us, and that's what we've designed.”

Bradford said that Vanderbilt is uniquely positioned to provide a solid health care business education. “Very few universities can claim a nationally ranked business school, a top academic medical center and a large and growing concentration of such a wide range of health care companies like what is found in Nashville,” he said.

Vanderbilt Health Care MBA students will embark on a structured curriculum of health care management courses taught by the Owen School's exceptional faculty and instructors drawn from the health care industry. The faculty will instruct students in the strategic, economic, ethical and operational aspects of the industry in which they will work. The curriculum is designed to permit students to choose elective courses from an array of top Vanderbilt programs, to tailor the degree to the student's field interest and to prepare him or her for a career in health services, medical devices, biotech, consulting, pharmaceuticals or managed care.

From the first semester, they will be immersed in the day-to-day realities of health care through a combination of real-world clinical experiences and strategic projects with health care organizations. To provide insight into the complexities and challenges of the health care environment, they'll view the health care system from patient, physician and management perspectives, with regular, firsthand experiences at VUMC — an international leader in health care services, education, research and discoveries — and at Nashville-based health care companies, of which there are more than 300.

“Nashville is a dynamic health care capital, home to organizations that are world leaders in hospital management, outpatient services, disease management, pharmaceutical services, academic medicine, medical technology and health information technology,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and chairman of the Nashville Health Care Council. Jacobson, who also teaches a health care entrepreneurship course at the Owen School, was instrumental in the creation of the Vanderbilt Health Care MBA program.

“Our intent was to design a program that would produce graduates with the skills today's public and private health care providers need most: cutting-edge management expertise and an in-depth understanding of the complexities of the health care sector,” Jacobson added.