How a MBA program changed a physician’s outlook Featured

9:43pm EDT May 31, 2013
Dr. Brandon Koretz, associate professor, clinical medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Dr. Brandon Koretz, associate professor, clinical medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

It would be nice to be able to have the philosophy that you can’t put a price on health, but the reality of rising costs in the health care industry means that approach can’t work.

“As a country, we can’t continue to spend 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care without making sure we’re getting the best possible value,” says Dr. Brandon Koretz, associate professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and student in the Executive MBA Program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Koretz says before entering the MBA program he had a tendency to spend whatever it cost to provide a valuable resource.

“My perspective was, ‘let’s get it.’ Now I understand that every dollar spent on one thing is a dollar that is not available for something else. I understand more fully the trade-offs and their implications,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Koretz about the MBA program and the perspective it has given him on the health care industry.

Why were you interested in the MBA program?

I’m a geriatrician by training and care for Medicare patients. I also work at an academic health center and teach others how to provide care.

Medicare is at the cutting edge of financial changes in health care, and there’s a need to provide the best possible care at the most reasonable price; I need to understand the financial principles to ensure that is occurring. My Hippocratic oath isn’t just a promise to the patient in front of me, it’s also an obligation to be a good custodian of resources provided by society, which is paying for that patient’s care.

How has the program changed your views regarding the health care industry?

It’s given me another tool set to use when considering problems, a perspective I didn’t have before. In medical school, I didn’t have a finance or accounting class. I’m now a much more informed decision-maker when making budgets.

I’ve been able to bring business principles back to the people I teach. UCLA’s medical school is great about training doctors to understand up-to-date scientific literature, but we not only need to provide technically good service, we also need to meet patients’ emotional needs. If you’re rude, patients aren’t going to come back or may not follow your medical advice. So I’ve initiated discussions about things like wait time and how it can be improved. In years past, doctors would say, ‘That’s not my job.’ But, of course, it is; evidence is being accumulated that shows clinical outcomes are better when there’s a stronger connection between patient and doctor. A conscious focus on service can strengthen these connections.

How does the Anderson experience differ from other MBA programs?

What’s amazing at Anderson is how it is a community of learners. There’s an incredible diversity among students. Faculty can walk me through the fundamental concepts of finance while teaching people who work in the finance industry. Students are also sensitive to that diversity, and a person with a financial background will help me during a break when there’s something I don’t understand. There’s no ego or shame involved. People tutor each other — one group came in weekends on their own time and set up a series of tutoring sessions for students who didn’t understand accounting.

The expression I hear is, ‘At Anderson we take care of our own.’ Everyone works together to ensure the best possible learning experience. I’ve been able to develop a broad network of people in many industries. One project involved gathering information about the travel industry. Using resources at Anderson, a dozen interviews were set up within days. When it comes to Anderson, whatever else you’re doing stops. We really take care of each other.

Dr. Brandon Koretz is associate professor, clinical medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Reach him at (310) 206-8272 or bkoretz@mednet.ucla.edu.

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management