Many doctors are pursuing a management degree to get into healthcare management. (Photo: Truthout.org's photostream)
Shashank Prabhu, a doctor by profession, made headlines last week by cracking the Common Admission Test (CAT) and that too with a 100 percentile score. One question that the entire media asked him was why did he opt for an MBA. His answer was simple, he wanted to get into healthcare management and an MBA degree would help him do that. Shashank is not the only doctor pursuing an MBA in India, there are many more. PaGaLGuY spoke to some and asked them the proverbial question 'why?'.
According to Dr Anay Bhalerao, a student of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management and Higher Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai, his main reason for doing an MBA was because everyone should do it. An MBA is akin to a prep school. It prepares you to the realities of the world," he said. Dr Anay did his MBBS, and worked at a blood bank as a blood transfusion officer for two years, before pursuing an MBA. His batchmate at NMIMS, Dr Rushikesh Deshpande said that his decision to do an MBA was an outcome of a process rather than an incident. "Though I liked studying medicine, I wasn't helping me develop as a person. MBA, on the other hand, provides a platform to explore things in a broader perspective.
Indian Institute of Management, Trichy's, Dr Kishor Chindam, who has done his bachelors in dental surgery (BDS) from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, said that with the current opportunities in healthcare management in the country, an MBA seemed to be the way forward. Almost the same reason why Dr Shashank Prabhu decided to do an MBA. Having interned at a government hospital, he felt that MBA was necessary to change the way hospitals and the healthcare industry functioned in the country. Few others have spent some years in the medical profession and feel MBA is essential for healthcare management. Dr Vinod IVRS from the XLRI - GMP (1-year Program), Jamshedpur, has a PG diploma in Human Rights as well. He has worked in the healthcare industry for about a decade and has clear concepts. I want to increase my domain expertise in medical marketing and understand other associated processes in the industry, he said. Dr Ashwani Aggarwal also from the same programme at XLRI, has a more straightforward answer, These days, medicine is no longer a doctor-patient relationship but a commercial gamut of hospitals, physicians, pharmaceuticals, hospital administration, medical equipment, clinical trials, etc and an MBA will help expand my vision."
Why a doctor?
The answers are simpler to this question. While Dr Ashwani chose it because it was one of the most challenging professions, Dr Anay always wanted to become one. For Dr Rushikesh, who was born into a family of doctors, it was already a comfort zone. Dr Kishore, a dentist, always dreamt of being a doctor. How could I then do an MBA before doing my dentistry? When I saw opportunities in healthcare management, I positioned my mind into it, he said.
Is studying for MBBS different from studying for an MBA?
"I don't think we should compare a graduate course to an undergraduate course, but yes the facilities in a b-school are far better," says Dr Vinod who studied at MKCG Medical College in Berhampur, Orissa. He, however, admitted that the environment in a b-school was more professional and cut-throat.
Some doctors who spoke off the record to PaGaLGuY said that while pursuing their MBBS, their duties included running personal errands for their professors. Our attendance was not compulsory so we bunked sometimes but we had to do odd jobs for our professors. We had to do it because our marks depended on our professors, who were also senior doctors in the hospital. Another doctor said that facilities in government and municipal hospitals were deplorable. It's ironic that we were studying to be doctors but right from the toilets to our hostel rooms were filthy," he lamented. He also said that life in a b-school was vastly different as everything was taken care of. Another doctor-turned-MBA student said that during their internship, often they were kept on duty for days without a break due to perennial staff shortage, but internships in b-schools were different.
From XLRI: Dr Prashant Karajgi, Dr Vinod IVRS, Dr Rishikesh Pradhaval, Dr Birendra Singh, Dr Ashwani Agarwal
What about healthcare management?
Healthcare is badly managed in India, whether in case of running medical college hostels or managing government and municipal hospitals. Private hospitals are expensive but provide better services, however, the influx of patients in government hospitals is huge and thus unmanageable, " said a doctor who is pursuing an MBA. Dr Rushikesh said that the government wants to raise public spending on healthcare to 2.5% but most of it would go in increasing the staff salaries. There is very less autonomy given to hospitals in a government set-up. If a CT scan machine develops snags, procedural norms have to be followed, which means waiting for 10 days and depriving patients of life-saving treatment. He added that the mind-set of doctors working at government institutions was akin to social loafing and absolving responsibilities in groups or social settings.
Others see some hope. Dr Vinod says that doctors are only a very small part of the medical management system. There is a whole gamut of health workers and medical functionaries but corruption and lack of infrastructure remains an issue," he said. Dr Ashwani, however, has quite a different take on this. He says that the healthcare system in the country is actually one of the best given the huge population and limited resources. A poor patient, who has no medical insurance stands a much better chance of getting treated here than in the western world. But the system can be improved much more by improving upon hygiene and allocating more funds.
Most doctors said that since the government controls much of the medical facilities and politicians run quite a few of the medical colleges, things are bound to remain like this for a while. A sea-change in attitude and facilities will not only get more patients to the hospitals but also improve healthcare. Dr Anay said that the value of human life in the country was far less where the poor was always at the receiving end. The staff at a rural or government set-up is not only overworked but also underpaid. It is also grossly unequipped and unappreciated. If you say patients are ill-treated, there are also doctors who work in these set-ups and often get affected by diseases such as tuberculosis due to poor working conditions. The governments inertia against revamping the system aided by public sentiments against doctors are the reasons why things remain unchanged.
Then, why is rural medical internship an issue?
Dr Vinod says that the government should make it a point for doctors who come from rural areas to first go for rural posting as they were the ones who never want to go to back to their roots. "A 2-3 year stint in a rural area is challenging and exciting for young doctors, but it's true that the infrastructure and support services should improve," he said. Dr Rushikesh said that rural internships were exploiting students because there was no easy option in sight. There are many who will happily join for permanent posts and they should be given opportunities but those with potential should be allowed to study further," he said.
As for Dr Anay, rural internship is a good option if the government improves the infrastructure facilities. A doctor cannot treat everything with a Paracetamol. He explains that rural India is still an untapped market and it makes good business sense to enter it. "My post retirement plan is to set up a school for orphans along with my wife to-be and a scan centre somewhere in the rural areas of either Thane or Raigad," he said.
Dr Kishor Chindam of IIM Trichy
Do you give tips to your batchmates?
The doctors are quite an information bank for their b-school batchmates. Most of them give medical tips and are the first-stopover for medical queries. Dr Anay says that his classmates look at him as if they are some 'sincere beings' a stereotype they were hell bent on breaking. But we are the official rescue team when someone succumbs to the heat," he said. But are they themselves ideal doctors given the lifestyle in a b-school? Dr Vinod says that he loves to swim and play sports but the schedule in his school does not permit any of it. It is easy for me to maintain healthy eating habits here but I would like to get back to my routine as early as possible. Dr Anay confesses that there is no time to exercise and getting good food away from home is difficult.
What plans ahead? Cosmetic surgery anyone?
Both Dr Anay and Dr Ashwani would like to get into medical consultancy after MBA, extending the reach of and coverage of hospitals focusing on untouched areas. With regards to cosmetic surgery, all of them regard it as a good money-making option but not really their line of interest. In fact, Dr Ashwani seemed quite against the whole concept of cosmetic surgery and says that every human being has the right to look good but it should not be done at the cost of a healthy body. Dr Vinod though admits of psychiatric and psychological issues and inferiority complexes among individuals leading to the increase in such surgeries, he explained,"If someone has the money and resources for it, and if the surgery is done by experts, there is nothing wrong.
Though most of this 'new breed' seem to become promising managers one day, most of them are still doctors at heart -- their handwriting can leave even the most brilliant of chemists scratching their heads.