Program fuses

by Melanie Evans

Jeevan Paul sat among the handful of medical students and faculty members gathered among pizza boxes and soda cans on Wednesday evening to talk shop.
As an internal medicine resident, Paul works 80 hours a week to master the basic science and bedside manners physicians need. The first-year resident also makes time for the evening’s economic and management seminars because changing markets demand more from his generation of doctors.
Paul and a fellow resident are trailblazers in the Department of Medicine’s residency program that mixes management and medicine. Though many similar programs exist for mid-career professionals, the University’s program director Dr. Mark Paller said he isn’t aware of other initiatives on the residency level.
Students who choose the new path attend monthly seminars and focus their elective rotations and mentorships in management settings like insurance companies and health maintenance organizations.
The program was intended to give medical residents a taste of the mushrooming field of health care management, said Paller, a professor in the Department of Medicine.
A doctor’s training as a medical specialist and as a coordinator will be in higher demand as cost-conscious health care providers are changing the physician’s role, Paul said.
The rapid expansion of managed care through the 1980s fueled a growing demand for doctors who can double as executives — or at least doctors who are aware of how administration in a large organization works, Paller said.
Seasoned physicians experienced shock as health insurance providers dramatically changed the market, trimming excess cost and doctor autonomy. Today’s medical students, however, are well aware of the changing environment, Paller said. The University’s residency program is intended to introduce students to the roles in the new setting.
One illustration of the changing marketplace is the transformation the 50-year-old University Department of Healthcare Administration has undergone.
Once housed in the School of Public Health, the department moved to the Carlson School of Management January 1, 1997, to accommodate the range of skills needed by health care executives. This builds on changing curriculums the department put in place over the last 15 years.
“Our program has continued to evolve, we also represent a lot of change,” said George Johnson, chairman of the Department of Healthcare Management.
Johnson said he has seen a rise in the number of doctors seeking out the department’s day and evening programs during the past five years.
Doctors are searching for a better understanding of the forces changing their medical practices, he said.
The department’s most popular program for physicians is an independent study program that is more accommodating to full-time health care professionals. The alternative style education attracts an average of 15 to 20 physicians per year.
No joint programs exist between Johnson’s department and the Medical School — something Johnson wants and expects to see change. A strong commitment exists in both schools to bring the two disciplines together, he added.
“A year from now I think it will look very different,” he said.
Administrators from both schools expect to put plans into practice after the dust settles from the department’s move to the Carlson School, Johnson said.