A Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master of Health Administration (MHA) dual degree program pairs the highest level of hands-on healthcare training with the managerial skills needed to run the daily operations and manage the business requirements of a patient care facility.
General Program Information
Students in this dual degree program attend both medical school and a Master of Health Administration program. Students will usually begin with the medical program, attend that for two or three years, then switch to the MHA program and complete it before returning to medical school to get their MD.
Why undertake the huge amount of work needed to pursue a master's degree while also attending medical school? One popular reason is as a basis for starting your own practice. Doctors who plan to go into business independently will need to understand how to run their business and how to handle regulatory and administrative requirements, such as dealing with insurance payments. The MHA also provides an alternate career path should a doctor decide they no longer want to practice medicine, or that they prefer to move into hospital administration or become a department head.
Students should expect these programs to take five to six years to complete. Most of this time is spent in medical school, with a break taken roughly halfway through to complete the MHA. In many programs, the MHA is condensed into a single year.
Courses that students may encounter in these programs include:
Cellular & Molecular Basis of Life
This medical course takes on the smallest components of the body's systems and functions. Students learn how the body works at a genetic, molecular and cellular level. Concepts covered in these courses include the biology of cells and molecules, histology and the role of genetics in health.
Neuroscience courses cover the nervous system. Students learn system function as well as how to diagnose and treat neurological diseases. These courses usually include lab work, simulation models and examinations of actual patients.
Bodily Systems Courses
Medical programs generally have specific courses covering the different systems of the body. Multiple systems that are closely interrelated are often grouped into the same course. Students learn diagnosis of conditions, testing procedures and treatment interventions among other concepts.
Health Care Financial Management
Students learn about the various aspects of financing that are pertinent to a health care organization. This includes financial statements, capital investment, accounting and the use of spreadsheets. Students come out of these courses able to evaluate the financial performance of health care organizations and prepare and interpret financial documents.
This course covers hospital administration matters. Students learn the management structure of a hospital and how it interlocks with other elements of the health care system. Concepts covered include hospital department structure, the different administration positions and duties, customer concerns and ethical issues.
Students will need to apply to (and be accepted to) both the medical and MHA school at their chosen university, and may also need to fill out a more general graduate student application.
Though admissions requirements will vary by program, it's fair to assume that the medical school will have more stringent requirements than the MHA program. Students should plan to take the MCAT before the beginning of the fall semester in the year they are applying. A bachelor's degree is also generally required. There is some flexibility on the discipline it is in, but medical schools usually require that coursework from a broad range of natural sciences, mathematics and the humanities have been a part of it.
Other application materials that are likely to be required include letters of recommendation and TOEFL test results establishing English proficiency for international students.
The MD and MHA dual degree program requires a lot of work, but positions students to start on nearly any high-level career track they would like within a patient care setting. Students who are still at the undergraduate level should prepare by making sure they have the relevant prerequisite coursework covered and are ready to take the MCAT when they apply.