World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1655–1665 | Cite as

Competitive Advantage of MBA for Physician Executives: A Systematic Literature Review

  • Anthony D. Turner
  • Stanislaw P. Stawicki
  • Weidun Alan GuoEmail author
Scientific Review


In response to systemic challenges facing the US healthcare system, many medical students, residents and practicing physicians are pursuing a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree. The value of such proposition remains poorly defined. The aim of this review is to analyze current literature pertaining to the added value of MBA training for physician executives (PEs). We hypothesized that physicians who supplement their clinical expertise with business education gain a significant competitive advantage. A detailed literature search of four electronic databases (PubMed, SCOPUS, Embase and ERIC) was performed. Included were studies published between Jan 2000 and June 2017, focusing specifically on PEs. Among 1580 non-duplicative titles, we identified 23 relevant articles. Attributes which were found to add value to one’s competitiveness as PE were recorded. A quality index score was assigned to each article in order to minimize bias. Results were tabulated by attributes and by publication. We found that competitive domains deemed to be most important for PEs in the context of MBA training were leadership (n = 17), career advancement opportunities (n = 12), understanding of financial aspects of medicine (n = 9) and team-building skills (n = 10). Among other prominent factors associated with the desire to engage in an MBA were higher compensation, awareness of public health issues/strategy, increased negotiation skills and enhanced work–life balance. Of interest, the learning of strategies for reducing malpractice litigation was less important than the other drivers. This comprehensive systemic review supports our hypothesis that a business degree confers a competitive advantage for PEs. Physician executives equipped with an MBA degree appear to be better equipped to face the challenge of the dynamically evolving healthcare landscape. This information may be beneficial to medical schools designing or implementing combined dual-degree curricula.


Authors’ contributions

W.A.G. conceived and led the study. A.D.T. conducted the literature search. All three authors (W.A.G., A.D.T. and S.P.S.) contributed to analyzing the data, writing and revising the article and approved the final version of the article.


  1. 1.
    Gunderman R, Kanter SL (2009) Perspective: educating physicians to lead hospitals. Acad Med 84(1348–135):1Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ackerly DC, Sangvai DG, Udayakumar K et al (2011) Training the next generation of physician-executives: an innovative residency pathway in management and leadership. Acad Med 86(575–57):9Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Webpage MD/MBA Programs: association of MD/MBA programs (2017).
  4. 4.
    Orlando R 3rd, Haytaian M (2012) Physician leadership: a health-care system’s investment in the future of quality care. Conn Med 76:417–442PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Moawad HG (2013) Careers beyond clinical medicine. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J et al (2009) Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. J Clin Epidemiol 62(1006–101):2Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Burns T (2008) Performance improvement: your preparation for a Medicare survey. Home Health Nurse 26:452–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Slattery EL, Voelker CC, Nussenbaum B et al (2011) A practical guide to surveys and questionnaires. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 144:831–837CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sherrill WW (2000) Dual-degree MD–MBA students:a look at the future of medical leadership. Acad Med 75:S37–S39CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Schwartz RW, Pogge C (2000) Physician leadership: essential skills in a changing environment. Am J Surg 180(187–19):2Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zheng F, Mouawad NJ, Glass NE et al (2012) Advanced degrees for surgeons and their impact on leadership. Bull Am Coll Surg 97(19–2):3Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sherrill WWMD, Students MBA (2004) An analysis of medical student career choice. Med Educ Online 9:4353CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Goldman JT (2010) The MD/MBA dual degree: then what? The Franklin society: the business of medicine.
  14. 14.
    Keogh TJ, Martin W (2011) The convergence of business and medicine: a study of MD/MBA programs in the United States. US China Educ Rev A 2:222–233Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Satiani B, Sena J, Ruberg R et al (2014) Talent management and physician leadership training is essential for preparing tomorrow’s physician leaders. J Vasc Surg 59(542–54):6Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Spehar I, Frich JC, Kjekshus LE (2014) Clinicians in management: a qualitative study of managers’ use of influence strategies in hospitals. BMC Health Serv Res 14:251CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Krupat E, Dienstag JL, Kester WC et al (2016) Medical students who pursue a joint MD/MBA degree: who are they and where are they heading? Eval Health Prof 40(2):203–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hall JF (2013) Advanced degrees in academic colorectal surgery. Clin Colon Rectal Surg 26:250–253CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Butcher L (2011) The rapid growth of MD/MBA programs: are they worth it. Physician Exec 37:22–26PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Larson DB, Chandler M, Forman HP (2003) MD/MBA programs in the United States: evidence of a change in health care leadership. Acad Med 78(335–34):1Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Patel MS, Arora V, Kinney JM et al (2014) The role of MD and MBA training in the professional development of a physician: a survey of 30 years of graduates from the Wharton Health Care Management Program. Acad Med 89:1282–1286CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Frich JC, Brewster AL, Cherlin EJ et al (2015) Leadership development programs for physicians: a systematic review. J Gen Intern Med 30(656–67):4Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Love DB, Ayadi MF (2015) Redefining the core competencies of future healthcare executives under healthcare reform. Adm Issues J Educ Pract Res 5:3–16Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Parekh SG, Singh B (2007) An MBA: the utility and effect on physicians’ careers. J Bone Joint Surg Am 89:442–447CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Attri JP, Sandhu GK, Mohan B et al (2015) Conflicts in operating room: focus on causes and resolution. Saudi J Anaesth 9(457–46):3Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lusco VC, Martinez SA, Polk HC Jr (2005) Program directors in surgery agree that residents should be formally trained in business and practice management. Am J Surg 189(11–1):3Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Satiani B (2004) Business knowledge in surgeons. Am J Surg 188:13–16CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pham HH, Devers KJ, Kuo S et al (2005) Health care market trends and the evolution of hospitalist use and roles. J Gen Intern Med 20(101–10):7Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Butcher L (2010) MDs with MBAs report bigger salaries, more satisfaction. Modern healthcare. Accessed 26 Apr 2010
  30. 30.
    Lazarus A (2010) Physicians with MBA degrees: change agents for healthcare improvement. J Med Pract Manag MPM 26:188–190Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Chesluk BJ, Bernabeo E, Hess B et al (2012) A new tool to give hospitalists feedback to improve interprofessional teamwork and advance patient care. Health Aff (Millwood) 31(2485–249):2Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Zwarenstein M, Rice K, Gotlib-Conn L et al (2013) Disengaged: a qualitative study of communication and collaboration between physicians and other professions on general internal medicine wards. BMC Health Serv Res 13:494CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony D. Turner
    • 1
    • 3
  • Stanislaw P. Stawicki
    • 2
  • Weidun Alan Guo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgerySUNY-BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Research and InnovationSt Luke’s University Health NetworkBethlehemUSA
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryMorehouse School of MedicineAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations