New Joint Degree To Be Offered

In an effort to train doctors to be managers as well as caregivers, Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard Business School (HBS) announced this week that they will offer a joint MBA and MD program starting in 2005.

The proposed joint degree, introduced by HMS Dean Joseph B. Martin on Wednesday at a private breakfast, aims to give doctors management skills required in today’s medical world.

Davidson Distinguished Professor of Medicine Ronald Arky said that the need for the joint program was “obvious.”

“So many things in medicine require knowledge of management and fundamental business,” he said.

HMS Dean of Medical Education Malcolm Cox said that unlike existing joint degree programs at other universities, the business component of the Harvard program would be more focused on leadership.


“We’re going to develop a series of integrative courses uniquely designed to introduce physicians to management skills,” he said.

The five-year joint program is part of a larger overhaul of the HMS curriculum, said Cox. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges website, at least 11 other universities offer joint MBA and MD programs.

W. Carl Kester, the MBA program chair at HBS, said that students now typically spend four years earning a medical degree and two years getting an MBA—and that the new program would shorten their course work by a year.

Kester said that students would spend the first three years of the program at HMS taking the “normal” curriculum intermixed with several new management and health seminars. After those three years, students would take a year of HBS classes and then spend their fifth year at both schools. Students will also be required to take on intense internships and other courses during summers.

Professors at both Harvard schools said that the program was essential.

Richard M. Bohmer, an assistant professor at HBS, said that the key to the joint program was that it integrated both medicine and business.

“Health care and medical science is undergoing a huge transformation—one intriguing aspect is the increased importance of organizations,” he said.

Arky added that “a few” medical students have always received business degrees, but the new program would formalize their joint course work.

HMS already offers joint degree programs with the School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government, while HBS offers a joint degree program with the Law School.

According to Kester, students will have to be admitted at both schools in order to participate in the program and applications will be accepted this fall.

“We’re going to admit as many [applicants] as are qualified,” Kester said. “There might be as few as five, as many as 15...My sense is that there will be a small number because they have to meet the standards of both admission boards.”

—Staff writer Joseph M. Tartakoff can be reached at

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