Private Practice Perspectives

Why I decided to get an MBA after becoming a private practice gastroenterologist


It was my dream from an early age to become a physician. Even as a child I was fascinated by medical procedures and interventions. As I pursued my medical degree, I became increasingly interested in a career where I could integrate patient care and the latest innovations in technology.

VASU APPALANENI, MD of Dayton Gastroenterology

Dr. Vasu Appalaneni

Training in gastroenterology has provided me an exciting mix of patient care and procedures, with medical devices and technologies that are constantly evolving. As I began my career, I joined Dayton Gastroenterology, a private practice affiliated with GI fellowship at Wright State University, Fairborn, Ohio, because the practice provided an opportunity to care for patients, train GI fellows, and provide employment opportunities to the community I serve.

After spending so many years to become an expert in medicine and then training in gastroenterology, it might have seemed daunting to go back to school to get an education in another field. But we all know the medical environment is constantly changing – in the last decade dramatically so, in technology as well as in how groups are organizing themselves in response to health care consolidation and other external forces. Developing expertise in both medicine and business can prepare physicians to be better advocates and leaders as health care continues to change.

The importance of understanding the business of health care

Consolidation in health care has increasingly impacted private practices, with more primary care and specialty physicians being employed by hospitals. In some areas of the country, this has affected the flow of patient referrals to independent GI practices, and these practices must now adapt to continue serving their communities. This is being amplified by the increasing demands for patient services coupled with staffing issues and reimbursement cuts.

These challenges have resulted in some smaller practices joining local hospitals systems. Others have come together to form larger groups or managed services organizations (MSO), and some have partnered with private equity firms to compete in response to these market forces.

During our training and education in medical school, we aren’t taught how to run a successful practice. We aren’t taught how to bring together different industry partners, collaborators, and payers or how to build patient-centric practice models. But sometimes the best method of learning is by doing, and my experiences during the merger of Dayton Gastroenterology with One GI, a physician-focused MSO with practices in six states, was invaluable.

That merger process taught me a lot about how companies are valued, the nuances in determining deal flow, networking, human capital, and everything else involved in how a transaction takes place. I developed a greater understanding about how to develop and build successful large practices, with improved employee satisfaction, company culture, and great patient experience.

Developing a positive practice culture

It was during the process of partnering with One GI and during the pandemic that I decided to pursue my desire to get a formal business education, and I’m glad I did. The executive MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University allowed me to gain an in-depth understanding of various aspects of business, finance, accounting, marketing, leadership, governance, organizational transformation, negotiations, and so much more, all while continuing to work full time as a gastroenterologist in private practice.


Next Article:

Miami hepatologist leverages Golden Rule to balance work, family, address health equities