Doctor sees sense in EMBA

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am

The road to a medical career is long and arduous, but Chan Pik-kei, a specialist in an intensive care unit at a public hospital, believes further education is required for those in the medical field. She was the first person with a medical background to sign up for an EMBA programme at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Asia. She explains why an executive management degree is so important to medical professionals:

Why did you decide to do an EMBA?

I have been trained all my life to be a doctor. But when you stay long enough in the field, you discover that you need more to be a good leader, and good team player. The most important things are leadership skills, people skills and communication skills. In a medical faculty, little time is spent on training students for these skills. Ivey trained me to think and act strategically in order to solve complex real-life problems as a leader. The other subjects in a typical EMBA course, such as finance, IT and operations, are important too. No matter whether it is a business unit or hospital unit, you have to understand all those aspects.

Has something changed in the medical field that requires more medical professionals to consider an EMBA?

Yes. Ten or 15 years ago, doctors would look forward to promotions after working for a certain number of years in public hospitals. If they weren't promoted, they would join the private sector. But society has changed, the medical system has changed and the way people think and what they value has changed a lot. Nowadays, doctors are not merely looking for money or a title. Instead, they are motivated by intrinsic rewards, such as feeling what they do has a meaningful purpose, being respected and valued. Frontline doctors participate more and more in the management of their units, such as decision making or policy development. An EMBA course would equip the medical professionals for their leadership and management roles.

Do you think the management practices in the medical field are different from the commercial sector?

There are similarities and differences. In both you need to have a clear vision and sound strategies for your organisation, strong leadership and good communication skills. You need to strive for the highest standards and deliver results. You need to be proactive to identify threats and opportunities for your organisation and lead accordingly.

On the other hand, the differences are huge. In the commercial world, the goal is profit. In a hospital, we are talking about quality of care, patient safety, work efficiency and effective resource management. Health care is a far more complex business. It is a people business. We need strong leadership, compelling visions, strategies that focus on high standards and best practices, creative solutions for improving efficiency and leveraging resources for more effective delivery of care. In the public medical sector, what you do affects the lives of the public and is in the eyes of the public. You are spending taxpayers' money and you are responsible to the public at large. To a certain extent, an EMBA course is even more important to medical professionals than those in the commercial sector.

As a doctor, how has the EMBA helped you so far?

I am able to apply what I have learnt in organising and managing my work on a daily basis. I can communicate better with my patients and colleagues. I have learnt to understand the viewpoints of others and constructively discuss issues with those around me. I have gained greater self-confidence in my ability to resolve complex problems. And I have a better understanding of how a unit can be run more efficiently. At the end of the day, if you can utilise the resources better, motivate your staff to do their jobs more efficiently and collaborate with different people and teams, the benefits go to the patients.