Let's talk business — Why Dr. Lawrence Kosinski pursued an MBA

Medical school makes physicians, not businessmen. But in an increasingly integrated healthcare industry, the best physicians know the best business practices.

In the 1990s during another period of change in healthcare, Lawrence Kosinski, MD, MBA, now managing partner of Illinois Gastroenterology Group in Elgin, was 44 years old and decided to head back to school and get an MBA.

"I thought, I knew a lot about medicine, but I didn't know the language of business," reminisces Dr. Kosinski of his career in the nineties. "And it looked like business was going to be very involved in our profession and I needed to master it. My MBA changed my career."

The best time to reinvest
Walking out the door of medical school into business school may not be the wisest path to obtain this business knowledge.

Dr. Kosinski suggests physicians follow their clinical careers for at least five years before considering a business degree. Young physicians will better understand the healthcare industry at that point, and then can augment that experience with formal business education.

If you want to be a leader, shaping the future of the healthcare profession, Dr. Kosinski says an MBA will prove extremely beneficial.

"Just because you finished in your early thirties with your MD doesn't mean you don't have to reinvest in your education at your mid-career level," says Dr. Kosinski.

Find the best fit for medicine
Although tempting, attending a healthcare-focused MBA program may not be the best approach to obtaining a strong business background.

Dr. Kosinski felt the changes rippling through the healthcare industry mirrored those in other industries. Attending a healthcare-focused MBA program would have robbed him of the opportunity to closely interact with high-level people in other industries.

He chose to attend Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. During his program, he worked in study groups with people of finance, marketing, human resources and operations backgrounds.

"You learned how to extract the most out of that team for that process," says Dr. Kosinski. "What the MBA structure provided was a way of learning how to work with a team of high-level professionals to accomplish a single goal." He explains, 'MD' no longer stands for 'my decision,' but for 'makes decisions' with a team.

If committing to an MBA program, consider how to make every project relevant to your career, giving every assignment a medical twist.

Ramping up a career
Since attending business school, Dr. Kosinski found himself at a whole new level of communication with hospital administrators. Immediately able to immerse himself into their vantage points, he understood their strategic processes and financial statements. He could talk their talk, and was "at par from a business point of view."

"You're not provided business tools in medical school, and because of that you are at a disadvantage when you have to deal with those who have formal business training," says Dr. Kosinski.

An MBA may strengthen a physician's ability to understand the strategic aspects of the healthcare industry. Dr. Kosinski learned how to create a strategic plan, set goals and objectives and then develop tactics to execute the plan. He commented that many physicians jump straight to tactics, without plotting any type of strategy.

And when it comes to negotiations, an MBA teaches that you don't get what you deserve, but what you negotiate. "Negotiation is but one element of a tool box that you fill in the process of obtaining an MBA."

Without an MBA, Dr. Kosinski doesn't believe he would be holding his current leadership positions. He is on the governing board of the American Gastroenterology Association and also serves on the board of directors of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill.

"If we're going to be on the balls of our feet, and not get pushed back on our heels, we need to get educated," says Dr. Kosinski.

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