Sukir Sinnathamby, MD, MBA’18, is a cardiologist and the medical director of both Midwest Vein & Laser and Varicose to Perfect treatment centers in Dayton, Ohio. As he expanded his private practice, Dr. Sinnathamby discovered he needed new skills to manage the business that he simply did not have as an experienced physician.
“I could be doing things better. Are there better ways of managing staff, better ways of understanding the finances and negotiating through the turbulence of healthcare?” Dr. Sinnathamby said. “I managed these things, but I was mostly improvising. I wanted to gain some sense of whether I was doing things right.”
That’s why Dr. Sinnathamby chose to enroll in the Physician MBA Program at the Kelley School of Business. The 21-month program offers physicians the skills and training to direct the business of medicine and improve their leadership capabilities. Though located in Dayton, Dr. Sinnathamby chose the Kelley School in Indianapolis for its reputation and hybrid of online and in-person learning. There was a lot he wanted to learn.
“I started my MBA in 2016, about 20 years after I started my private practice, so I’d amassed a lot of questions, many of which I just didn’t have the time to answer. The good thing about the Kelley School is that you can explore those questions in depth,” he said. “Probably the biggest thing I liked at Kelley was the opportunity to relax, learn, and easily find answers to my questions from faculty or the reading material. Throughout my entire career and education, this was probably the most pure learning experience.”
From the first day of class, students in the Physician MBA Program are offered learnings that are directly applicable to their daily work. Accounting, marketing, and operations are taught through healthcare examples, imparting a skill set that translates to their healthcare organizations.
Dr. Sinnathamby used the learnings from the leadership courses to address staff motivation and retention by empowering his team.
“Before the MBA, the only way we’d motivate staff was monetarily. But if people feel like they’re learning and increasing in their knowledge, they tend to do better. I began offering my staff more educational opportunities and chances to lead. We eliminated middle management and allowed staff to have input on the team structure and how to make improvements,” Dr. Sinnathamby said. “I can tell them what to do, but I don’t have the whole picture. If they have frustrations or ways to improve our practice, let’s try it. I think staff appreciated it because they felt empowered to lead change and create solutions.”
Dr. Sinnathamby says the changes are working. As medical director, he oversees three practices and five offices. He says he uses what he learned in the Physician MBA Program every day, and it’s helped his practice remain competitive in a market where hospitals get paid more for the same services. By treating patients with personalized care and making sure patients can be seen right away by a physician, they remain competitive.
“We pay our staff a competitive wage, and our patient experience is much better than our competitors—most people find us through word of mouth,” he said. “There are two major players in the Dayton area that control most of the primary care practices, especially in cardiology. We rely on patient referrals for survival, and we’re doing very, very well. We see several new patients every week.”
Sometimes, the solutions to healthcare problems can be found in the context of other medical systems. In the Global Healthcare Experience course, the Physician MBA Program leads both student and alumni trips to international healthcare destinations to study how their medical systems work.
Dr. Sinnathamby took this course several times, traveling to study healthcare systems in Cuba, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, and Puerto Rico.
“In every healthcare system, we’ve seen a lot of waste and how each country approaches it. Part of the problem is healthcare has become a political commodity between what people want and what politicians want,” Dr. Sinnathamby said. “As a result, you don’t get cost-effective healthcare that’s helping people. That’s where the challenge is going to be.”
Dr. Sinnathamby says it’s important for physicians to gain a better understanding of the healthcare business in which they work so they can make more effective decisions for their practices and their patients.
“I’ve told other physicians—including my son, who’s in medical school—that you can’t be an effective doctor without understanding the business of medicine, and you can’t separate the two,” he said. “You can’t provide good care without creating a good business. I’d encourage any physician to learn about the business of medicine through the Kelley Physician MBA Program.”