Physicians: Want to overcome burnout? Start studying business.

I have no business background: zero, zilch, nada. Growing up, I was the kid who bought the lemonade, not the one who set up shop on the busy street corner. My parents bought the cookie dough, coupon book and every other school fundraiser from the kid next door instead of their own child. Job interviews? Never had them. All the jobs I’ve ever had I got because I knew the boss, usually my own father. I’ve had one job I went out and got on my own, though I’d like to erase it from memory. Scrubbing toilets at 3 a.m. during the months leading up to medical school is hardly a resume builder. While my wife and friends studied accounting and business in college, I spent my time studying Spanish translation and taking medical school prerequisite courses. I didn’t need that business stuff; I was going to be a doctor.

My story isn’t all too uncommon among my medical school peers. We’re budding physicians with goals to end human suffering and training to diagnose and treat disease. Business? Leave that to the MBAs and CEOs. Medical schools have taken a similar approach. We scratch the surface on the topics of medical billing and coding with absolutely no mention of how to run a business. You’re going to be a doctor, focus on the medicine.

Before medical school, I contacted a family friend and physician looking for advice. I hoped to receive validation for my thoughts about medicine and “inside information” about how to achieve my goals. My inquiry, however, was met with frustration and pessimism toward the profession, with a plea to “turn around and get out now.” I wrote it off as one poor soul who had become jaded through their own unique experiences. This wasn’t how the majority felt, I told myself.

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