October 14, 2015
2 min read

Teaching Doctors to be CEOs

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For all the information crammed into doctors’ heads during medical school, then added to and enhanced during internship and residency, there’s one huge area having to do with medical practice that is sorely neglected:  business.  Many doctors, especially those in private practice, are business owners, and need to become familiar with basic tenets of business organization and leadership. More than that, says Scottsdale, Arizona, ophthalmologist Guy M. Kezirian, MD, they need to acquire the mindset to not just be managers of their practices, but CEOs. But once physicians begin to practice, it becomes difficult for them to find the time for this training.

Dr. Guy Kezirian

That’s where the Physician CEO program at the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University comes in. Dr. Kezirian is founder and chairman of the program, which he conceived after going back to school for an MBA at Kellogg when he was in his early fifties, and realizing how much he would have benefited if he’d had that knowledge and training earlier in his career. His company SurgiVision Consultants, Inc. developed the program in conjunction with Kellogg to let doctors access high quality business training in a format and schedule that works for them.

 “The format is greatly accelerated,” explains Kezirian. “We have top faculty from Kellogg, and we load the doctors up with information in four, five-day modules that occur over the course of a year. In that time we give them exposure to leadership strategies, negotiations, finance strategies, marketing and branding.

“We teach doctors how to properly direct their managers, look at their practice plans, look for opportunities for growth,” he continues. “We’re not training doctors to manage a practice, we’re training them to be the CEO of their practice, empowered to understand how the business works and make intelligent decisions.”

Doctors participating in a Physician CEO session

The first year of the program ended recently, and Dr. Kezirian says that it was a huge success, with both male and female participants ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties. Most of the doctors were from specialties like ophthalmology, dermatology, and plastic surgery—“People who are still in private practice,” says Dr. Kezirian, adding, “I know conventional wisdom is that private practice is dead, but I would argue that private practice is going to emerge as very strong in the future of healthcare in this country.” Indeed, Physician CEO recently announced an affiliation with the American-European Congress of Ophthalmic Surgery (AECOS).

“Everyone who participates is so excited about it,” says Kezirian. “They go back to their practices and say they recover the financial outlay [the course costs $38,000] even after the first session. Some people went back and renegotiated the leases on their equipment, for example.”

Greg Parkhurst, MD, an ophthalmologist from Texas, was one of the recent participants. “I’ve been practicing medicine for about eight years outside of residency, and started my own practice two years ago, but I didn’t feel I had adequate business training to run it well,” he explains. “I feel really lucky that there was an opportunity to get business training that is specific to physicians before I launch into a twenty or thirty year career as CEO of my practice. If I had to boil down what I got out of the course, it comes down to a mindset: I’m not only a physician, I’m a CEO. It’s about how to be an effective leader of an organization. Transferring that mindset into everyday decisions has been very powerful. . . and very valuable from a dollars and cents standpoint.”

Registration is now open for the 2016 sessions, which start in January. For more information, visit the program website here.