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First Admit to Joint MD/MBA Program Gains Deeper Perspective Through Business

Alison Thompson, the first student to be admitted to the new MD/MBA Program, a partnership between the Smeal College of Business and the Penn State College of Medicine, is currently completing her first semester of business classes. She says that the business skills she'll learn, like teamwork, communications, and financial accounting, will help to make her a more well-rounded physician.
December 11, 2013

Alison Thompson
Alison Thompson is pursuing a joint MD/MBA degree.

The first student to be admitted to the new MD/MBA Program, a partnership between the Smeal College of Business and the Penn State College of Medicine, is currently completing her first semester of business classes.

Alison Thompson entered medical school at Penn State after completing undergraduate programs in biology and chemistry at Wittenberg University in Ohio. A few years into her medical program, she started researching productive ways she add to her development as a physician and a professional.

“I wanted to take a year off in my MD Program for a reality and perspective check,” Thompson explained. “A friend asked me if I ever thought about getting my MBA, so I started doing some research. I called the Smeal MBA Program to get some more information, and it turned out that they were just beginning to put this program together.” Thompson applied, interviewed, and was accepted.

"[T]he dual perspectives will enable me to see both sides: that of the physician and that of the business of health care.”

In the MD/MBA Program, the first three years are spent at the Penn State College of Medicine completing the standard medical school curriculum. During the fourth year, students move to the Penn State Smeal MBA Program to participate in the standard first-year MBA curriculum. The fifth year consists of a mix of both business and medicine.

“We are seeing an increasing need in health care for medical professionals who possess a level of business competence and a deeper understanding of the business changes that affect health care delivery,” said Carrie Marcinkevage, managing director of the Penn State Smeal MBA Program. “With the joint MD/MBA Program, we want to equip the next generation of physicians with the knowledge and confidence to respond to the rapid change in the industry.”

Terry Wolpaw M.D., M.H.P.E., the vice dean for educational affairs and professor of medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine, adds, “Being a physician not only means understanding patients and their needs, it also means understanding the system and processes that turn plans for a patient’s needs into reality. More and more physicians across the country are learning to appreciate how much a business education can add to their understanding of system-wide aspects of health care.”

Thompson says that the business curriculum will complement her education in medicine in many ways, including a deeper business perspective of her practice.

“Learning these skills at an early stage in my career will make me a more well-rounded physician.”

“This will give me a better window into moving forward in medicine with the changes that are coming with the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “Also, the dual perspectives will enable me to see both sides: that of the physician and that of the business of health care.”

She adds that other business skills she’ll learn, like teamwork, communications, and financial accounting, will make her a better doctor.

“There’s a huge value in teamwork in medicine, and learning the science of teams and how they work has been incredibly enlightening. Also, learning and thinking about leadership issues from a business perspective has provided me a completely different way of thinking,” she said. “Learning these skills at an early stage in my career will make me a more well-rounded physician.”

For more information about admissions to the Penn State Smeal MBA Program and the College of Medicine, respectively, visit www.smeal.psu.edu/mba/admission and www.med.psu.edu/web/md/admissions.

Smeal offers other joint MBA programs in addition to the partnership with the College of Medicine, including a four-year JD/MBA with the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and a BS/MBA with the Eberly College of Science.

About the Penn State Smeal MBA Program
The internationally ranked residential Penn State Smeal MBA Program positions students from around the world for their future careers. The two-year program, based on the University Park campus, begins with a focus on business fundamentals. Through summer internships with top companies and concentration opportunities in areas such as supply chain management, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, strategic leadership, and sustainability, students then personalize their Smeal MBA experiences to align with their career aspirations. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/mba.

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