Dentists need clinical and financial skills in today’s competitive environment. Over the past year and a half, three students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry have worked with faculty and administrators to research and advocate for a joint DDS/MBA degree program, which has just been announced by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
Jae Young Han, Thomas Paron, and March Huetter, who are now in their third year at the dental school, helped administrators survey interest in the student body and research how other dental schools around the country with joint MBAs have structured their programs as the School of Dentistry put together its proposal for the program.
While dental practice management courses are required in all four years of the existing DDS curriculum, surveys indicated a significant number of students who were interested in the much higher level of business leadership training that an MBA offers. Adding the MBA will extend the normal DDS curriculum schedule from four to five years.
“The advantage of this joint MBA program goes beyond helping our dental graduates operate their private practices. The real benefit is that it will provide in-depth leadership and business training for our students who will aspire to leadership roles in dentistry,” said Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, DDS, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs.
“That could include corporate dentistry, public health, or transforming health systems. It will prepare students to be a CEO and to be a leader of the profession, and the great part is that we are utilizing the world-class business school we have on this campus,” Murdoch-Kinch said.
The DDS and MBA degrees both are rigorous academic programs, so the challenge for Murdoch-Kinch and for Renée Duff, DDS, MS, assistant dean for student services, was in structuring the five-year schedule to give students the best chance for success in what administrators acknowledge will be a difficult dual track.
Dental students will enroll in Ross full time starting in the fall term of their fourth year and complete three full-time semesters: fall, winter, and fall. During this time, students also will enroll in one credit of the dental clinic to maintain their clinical skills.
During the spring-summer term of the fifth year, students will return to the DDS program full time and complete the D4 spring-summer requirements. In the fall term of the fifth year, they will enroll full-time in both the DDS and the Ross programs. Students will be permitted to complete an internship through Ross as their schedules permit on a case-by-case basis.
“This is a significant new option for our students that will elevate their leadership capacity and skills,” said Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD, dean of the School of Dentistry. “The practice of dentistry, like most healthcare professions, is in a period of evolution. This program will develop leaders who can advance new practice models that are data-driven and patient-centric. Partnering with the highly ranked Ross School is a great opportunity for our students.”
Dental students can apply to Ross in the fall of their third year for acceptance into the MBA program. Current third-year dental students accepted during the Ross application cycle that began the first week of October will be the first DDS students to begin work on their MBA, starting in the fall of 2018.
Han led the student effort after making a strong presentation for the MBA about a year and a half ago. His interest prompted administrators to examine how such programs work at other dental schools around the country, and they opened a dialogue with Ross administrators.
Han, Paron, and Huetter worked with Dr. Marita Inglehart, a professor in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine who has extensive experience in the behavioral sciences to create surveys for dental students at the University of Michigan and at other schools around the country.
The survey found that 69% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the school should offer a dual DDS/MBA program, and 50% said they would strongly consider enrolling in such a program. Also, 46% said that offering a dual degree would have positively affected their decision in applying to the school, and 28% said they would be willing to endure the added expense of the MBA. Results of the national survey aren’t yet complete.
Han has applied for the new program and will learn in December if he is accepted. His pursuit of a business degree is a reflection of his many interests beyond the basic DDS, dating to the years when he was considering which profession to pursue and eventually which dental school. After arriving at the University of Michigan, he began researching joint MBA programs and how he might convince administrators to add it to the curriculum.
Han plans to enter into private practice, but he also is interested in the many ancillary aspects of dentistry and general healthcare such as nonprofit service, reducing healthcare costs, interprofessional education and collaboration, the engineering of surgical tools, practice management, insurance inefficiencies, and many other areas.
“There’s so much to the dental industry. It’s way more than just private practice,” Han said. “I’m not interested in using my MBA to be a good small business owner. I want to use it so I can participate in a bigger role, where I can work within the interdisciplinary domain, for different companies that produce different things, to consult and help them grow.”
Whether it’s technological advancement, streamlined administration, or insurance reformation, Han sees dentistry as positioned for major growth in many areas, including job creation.
“I want to elevate the whole image of the profession, help people to see that there is more to dentistry than just clinical, private practice,” said Han. “You can get a job as a dental technician, you can get a job as a consultant, you can get a job as an engineer who develops these new, innovative surgical tools. There’s so much more to it.”