Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Just What the Doctor Ordered

MBA student strives to bring business principles into the medical field—and sees UC as the perfect place to start.

When University of Kentucky medical school graduate Shawn Ryan first told his director in the Emergency Medicine Residency program at the University of Cincinnati that he planned to pursue an MBA while completing his residency, “she looked at me like I was crazy,” Shawn recalls. “It had never been done before.”

Although the idea of completing an MBA and a residency at the same time seemed daunting, Shawn's supervisors were eager to provide the support he needed to achieve his goal. He found the other essential element—flexibility in an MBA program—at the UC College of Business.

Thanks to advice from College of Business Graduate Programs Director Dona Clary on how to maximize the MBA's flexibility, Shawn decided to take full-time MBA classes during elective time provided by his residency, and then finish the degree part-time as his other obligations increased. “The flexibility has been great,” he says. “I've basically custom-tailored a program to fit my needs.”

Although most medical students who pursue multiple degrees delay completing their residency to do so, Shawn finished the Emergency Medicine program on time and is now a full faculty member at University Hospital and Jewish Hospital—and only a few classes away from earning his MBA. It's taken a lot of hard work, but Shawn believes the MBA will give him a valuable edge in his profession. “Medicine has always been a business, but now more than ever there's a need to increase our efficiency,” he says. “We're moving into an age where we are outstripping our resources and we'll have to tighten our belts—including having doctors with dual training—if we want to survive.”

With that in mind, Shawn chose quantitative analysis and operations management (QAOM) as the focus for his MBA. He even performed an operations analysis of the emergency department at University Hospital, where he was completing his residency, as a project for management professor Rajan Kamath. “It was very enlightening,” Shawn says. “For four years, I had been practicing medicine just from my perspective of seeing the patient. But there's a huge amount of time and processes between when the patient steps in the [emergency room] door and when they see a doctor.”

The project provided the impetus for an “Emergency Department Throughput Committee,” a committee that Shawn leads at Jewish Hospital with the goal of moving patients through the ER more quickly. “I have been tasked with a large responsibility only a few months out of my residency, and I think that my credentials have helped,” he says of his MBA studies.

The benefits of bringing operations principles into medicine are many: “It can lead to a better financial outcome, a better medical outcome and improved safety,” Shawn says. “Not to mention that the time it takes to see a doctor is the single most influential factor on patient satisfaction scores.”

Impressed by Shawn's success, his former advisors in the Emergency Medicine program are now considering ways to encourage more medical students and residents to pursue business training, perhaps through fellowships or similar programs. Shawn—and his colleagues—see this as the perfect opportunity for a rigorous, flexible program such as the UC MBA to provide a much-needed stimulus to the medical profession.