I’ve got a dual degree, now what?

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You’ve worked hard, spent an extra year (or more) to obtain that dual degree status and now you’re done! Congrats! You’re in a position that relatively few physicians have.

But now what can you do with a dual degree?

First of all make sure you complete residency. There are people who skip training to work for various medical industries e.g., pharmaceuticals, consulting, which is fine if thats your goal; but, if you’re like me and really want to make use of both your degrees, then complete your training. Doing so will give you credibility with other physicians in the future, and your work experience, in general, will lend you credibility with your management teams.

I chose anesthesia as my field of medicine for various reasons, all of which suited, and do still suit, me just fine. However, at the time I made this choice, I was at a loss of how anesthesia would fit in with my plans to be an administrator. I assumed then that I’d have to do pain management and open my own practice in order to use my degree. When I began residency however I realized how valuable the degree is just for everyday life.

In other words you don’t need to be in a specific field to use your management degree. As I mentioned in my MD/MBA post, management concepts are an integral part of medicine. Your skills will come in handy no matter what you choose to do.

As you finish residency, you need to decide what kind of trajectory your career will take. Do you want administrative titles and responsibilities? If so, you can leverage your degree to get there. I wanted that but felt that I needed more practical experience, yet I had never heard of any training pathway to get me where I wanted to go. When I initially spoke to my chairman about doing something in management, he pointed me towards Capitol Hill. His advice: get involved at the national level, in health policy, as thats where a lot of the future issues in medicine will come from. Examples as shown:

 

Health Policy Fellowships

ASA Landsdale Public Policy Fellowship

Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Program

Academy Health, Health Policy fellowship

Families USA Villers Fellowship

 

While there’s a definite need for physicians to get involved at that level, the time commitment does not allow for maintenance of clinical work. Essentially, you’re taking a year off from working as a physician.

For me personally, health policy did not align with my interests; I wanted more experience in management and administration. A quick online search and I found a handful of perioperative management fellowships across the country. A few new ones have formed since then, list as follows:

 

Perioperative Management Fellowships

Duke University: Perioperative Medicine Fellowship
Massachusetts General Hospital: Perioperative Administration Fellowship
Montefiore: Perioperative Management Course and Fellowship
Stanford University: Fellowship in Management of Perioperative Services
Tulane University: Perioperative Management
University of California, Irvine: Fellowship in Management of Perioperative Services
University of California, San Diego: Fellowship in Perioperative Management
University of Washington, Perioperative Quality and Patient Safety

 

If public policy or management isn’t for you, then there are other options as well:

 

Other

Drexel: Injury and Public Health Fellowship

Duke Masters in Global Health

Stanford Global Health Fellowship

 

These lists are by no means the only options out there (just what I know of and was able to find). The point here is that there are a lot of ways to use your dual degree; even without another degree you can take part in these opportunities if you’re interested.

In addition, dual degree or not, getting involved early on is important. As a resident, try to join various committees e.g., QA/QI so that you gain some practical experience. Attend conferences that emphasize management and business concepts. As an example, there is an annual Practice Management conference given by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. I attended for the first time as a senior resident and ended up meeting the chair of the department where I now work (read more about that particular story here)

I think as physicians we are taught a single path, one that’s well beaten, i.e., residency, fellowship, clinical work. Yet, everyday new opportunities arise for us to make a difference. With health policy, you have a chance to affect how millions of people receive treatment; with management, you are able to make decisions for a whole department or hospital versus a few patients. Global health involves you on an even grander scale, taking your skills to areas of the world where basic healthcare is an issue.

Given that, if you’re reading this, you have another degree, are interested in another, or have interests outside of medicine, then I applaud you for thinking outside the box. We need more physicians who do this; and know that pursuing these pathways by no means narrows your future. Rather, it expands it and opens doors that otherwise would not be available to you.

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