In 2021, among the 37 individuals named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for health care, 24 were identified as “co-founder” or “founder” (64%), while only ten individuals were MDs or MD Candidates (27%), and only 4 were both MDs and Co-founder/founders (11%). These metrics demonstrate that of people under the age of 30, the majority of those who were most recognized were not medical students, residents, or physicians, but rather non-physicians using multidisciplinary entrepreneurial skills to launch to-scale businesses that make palpable impacts on the health care sector.
Physicians are tasked with thinking about the social, political, and financial framework within which their patients and hospitals exist. Often, physicians go further and want to address issues that they see locally, nationally, and globally. They are entrusted to find solutions to questions and problems that go beyond what science or medicine can offer. They leverage resources, consider organizational expansions, and even start entire organizations looking to address dire needs in communities. Additionally, within the first few years of training, resident physicians are often tasked with leading teams of care personnel and junior residents, often with no formal training on how to take on this role. Clearly, physicians already engage with and demonstrate both management and entrepreneurial skill sets. Yet, according to Harvard Business Review, when senior physicians are promoted to management positions, they often have received little to no training on “how to allocate short- and long-term resources, how to provide developmental feedback, or how to effectively handle conflict,” each of which is vital for the effective operation of a health care facility. Management skills and entrepreneurial training are clearly both a natural and necessary supplement to physicians’ skills to be successful in the current medical industry and should therefore be incorporated into the medical curriculum.
As the American Academy of Family Physicians notes, “physicians and entrepreneurs share a central tenet of their being: problem-solving.” Physicians already are trained in key entrepreneurial traits, such as “the capacity to learn, the confidence to operate with uncertainty, and domain expertise in an area of health care.” The medical expertise physicians have them in a unique place to move forward health care innovation, but to be able to do this successfully, they need to have a business and entrepreneurial background. A formalized entrepreneurial and management curriculum would empower physicians to solve tensions in their communities and spheres of influence by improving skills such as “creative problem-solving, risk-taking, and technical and business literacy.” Physicians would learn how to take novel ideas and innovations and transform them into commercial and scalable solutions.
This training would allow physicians to begin their own initiatives or take on positions that allow them to find authority in spaces outside of the clinic, which would allow physicians to have more control over their career and feel empowered to improve the systems that they are a part of. This is increasingly relevant given physician rates of burnout are at an all-time high and that many are leaving the field of health care altogether. Empowering physicians with independence and control in their career choices through leadership training could potentially offset burnout while allowing highly gifted, passionate, and experienced health care professionals to stay in health care spaces. Management and entrepreneurship frameworks would allow physicians to consider ways to contribute to the health care sector without being on the front lines of providing clinical care. This could also serve to combat rates of burnout and retain experienced physicians within medical spaces.
Building an entrepreneurial framework through formal coursework benefits medical students themselves and health care systems they aspire to serve. Health care systems with business-savvy physicians could provide more effective, value-based health care, leading to better patient outcomes. Given the rise of technology, electronic health record systems, new innovations, and rising pressure to provide high-quality health care at the lowest financial cost, the leadership of physicians and their ability to communicate and run teams are more important now than ever. This becomes even more critical when we consider that one in four Americans has multiple chronic conditions, which can often require physicians to be on large, integrative teams to manage care. Management skills would provide physicians with a more multidisciplinary business framework to consider all these moving pieces, which would lead to smoother operational flow and a more streamlined approach to patient outcomes.
Some may argue that there is no time to teach these skills in medical school and residency or that they should not be a priority. Yet, medical students and residents are already engaging in tasks that build and require leadership behaviors. By formalizing this aspect of their education, aspiring physicians set themselves up for improved self-awareness of their leadership capacity and critical thinking skills to address the novel issues they confront in clinical practice every day. This also sets up physicians to consider larger scale-solutions to many of the tensions that they witness in the health care space today.
Teaching medical students entrepreneurial and business skills is invaluable as the need for leadership in medicine grows in every single sector. Many physicians already engage in managerial and entrepreneurial-like practices without labeling these skills. By formalizing these skills into medical education, physicians will be able to take their ambitions and ideas about how to best run existing health care institutions and translate them into innovations for the future of the field.
Sofia Yunez is a medical student.
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