A Look Inside Tippie’s Joint MD/MBA Program

Tippie offers joint and dual degree programs for students interested in pursuing additional academic studies while working toward an MBA. Chris Iverson is a joint MD/MBA student at the University of Iowa, pursuing medical school and an MBA in five years. Chris was able to join me last week to share his experience navigating between the two programs.

What interested you in combining your medical education with an MBA to pursue a joint degree?

Chris Iverson, MD/MBA Student at the University of Iowa

Chris Iverson, MD/MBA Student at the University of Iowa

I grew up around a healthcare family—my dad is a physician and my mom’s a nurse. Growing up with them as role models led to my initial desire to also become a member of the healthcare field. I attended Notre Dame as a Science Business major, combining biology, chemistry, physics, etc. (the requirements needed for medical school), alongside what was essentially a minor in business. I really enjoyed [the business courses] and thought they were very practical. After undergrad, I entered medical school at the University of Iowa. The medical curriculum at the Carver College of Medicine is fantastic and does an incredible job preparing students for boards. However, I’ve also tried to be very cognizant of the moving parts in healthcare–especially with the Affordable Care Act–and recognized that there’s more to medicine than the exam room when it comes to delivering healthcare. I wanted to be in the best position possible to be prepared for these changes so I began seeking out [the joint degree program]. Tippie does a great job laying out the joint degree study on their website, which can be obtained in 5 years’ time. The MD degree would typically take four years and the MBA two if done separately—however, there’s precedent and willingness for the two colleges to talk and put credits together in order to find areas of overlap. So the program was already in place and enabled me to make a seamless transition.

What does the academic structure of the MD/MBA program look like?

The format is changing now, but I can talk specifically about my experience. (See an updated plan of study here.) For me, it consisted of the first two years exclusively in medical school in the lecture hall—preparing for the first round of board exams. Now [the program] is changing to completing three years in medicine before beginning the business curriculum. For me, once [medical boards were completed], there was a natural break between the lecture and clinical. So I’ve completed this fall and spring semester exclusively through the College of Business. This summer, I’ll jump back into the medical program–eight weeks of rotations–followed by a final semester of business, and then finish rotations in the spring semester.

What are some of the biggest takeaways and challenges of being in a joint degree program?

It’s something that’s certainly pushed my comfort zone. I did have some business background, but have been mostly science-geared, so it’s different being in a program where I’m not surrounded by medical students. I have a tremendous group of peers [in the MBA program] who have work experience and who can bring applicable experience to lectures. I’ve learned a lot from them and the faculty here who have been more than willing to go out of their way to make that transition easier. Jill Tomkins [Director of MBA Student Services] has been instrumental in both coordinating my schedule as well as making sure my MBA has the healthcare focus that I desire. Thanks once again to Tippie’s willingness to work with other colleges on campus, I have been able to take two healthcare courses within the Masters of Healthcare Administration (College of Public Health) curriculum that are viewed as management credits by Tippie–as management from a business perspective with a healthcare drive.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are contemplating a joint degree and how will this add value to your future career?

I highly recommend it. It’s been a great experience so far. There are a lot of things changing in healthcare now—and it’s not going to slow down soon. I believe the business program teaches you a lot of practical ways to approach problems. It isn’t the memorization of the first two years of medical school, but rather theories and concepts you can apply to any problem presenting itself that requires an innovative solution. Regarding my future career—I think the skills I have acquired here will make me ready to take on those challenges that the real world holds. The ability to combine both medical and business training will be viewed as a valuable asset both by wherever I choose to work and by patients—so I can efficiently and effectively provide improved patient care, which is really the ultimate goal of all who choose to work in the healthcare industry.

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