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Long IslandNassau

Doctors learn the business of healing

Students learn about management styles and motivational theory

Students learn about management styles and motivational theory while striving to build the tallest straw structure at Adelphi University's unique program for doctors, where they can get an MBA. From left to right, Dr. Ronald Gulotta, of St. Francis Hospital, Dr. David Negron, of Good Samaritan Hospital, and Dr. Russell W. Raskin, of St Francis Hospital work together to build a straw tower to learn about management styles. (March 16 2010) Credit: Newsday/Mahala Gaylord

A group of Long Island physicians is hoping to wield a little business savvy along with their stethoscopes.

Eighteen doctors from Catholic Health Services are on their way to a business degree, part of a new program started by Adelphi University that puts doctors on an accelerated track to earning MBAs. Classes began meeting this month.

Doctors hope the skills they learn will help them deal with an evolving health care field, where meeting overhead in a private practice takes as much work as healing patients.

"Given the changing nature of Long Island, the aging population, the high concentration of health care sector, the natural extension was to look to hospitals and the health care industry," said Rakesh Gupta, Dean of Adelphi's School of Business, which began looking at the health care field in 2007.

Adelphi teamed up with St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn to offer mid-level employees an MBA with a specialization in health services administration. The success of this class led to another in 2009.

Doctors began expressing interest and Adelphi came up with a program just for them: a weekly four-hour class, 14 courses in all. Unlike their previous health programs, officials decided this one would not be specialized.

"It was a surprise to me," Gupta said. "But when we asked, physicians did not want an MBA for physicians. They didn't want the content geared only to doctors, because . . . they realized they may wind up in a different sector of the health care industry, they may wind up going outside the health care sector."

Dr. Jeffrey Wolf, a student in the program, is a pulmonary specialist whose private practice group oversees the St. Francis intensive care unit. "Most doctors are terrible businessmen," he said. "You learn everything you need to know about taking care of sick patients and disease processes but you learn nothing about business."

Doctors have also felt the impact of the recession, he said.

"We're working harder and harder, seeing more and more patients, just to meet our overhead and stay fiscally viable," he said. "It used to be OK to just practice medicine . . . and you would just assume you're going to meet your overhead and you'll be able to pay your bills and your staff and it's not so assured anymore."

Uncertainty in health care and the economy could make an MBA invaluable, Wolf said.

"I love taking care of patients, that's why I went into this," he said. "But I want to make sure that my practice is being run the right way and if unforeseen things happen in medicine I want to be prepared."