MD/MBA Student Interviews

On this page, you'll find advice from current MD/MBA candidates about their reasons for pursuing the dual-degree, how they went about doing it, and how they thought about the decision as well as the relative pros and cons of the various routes and programs.


David Fajgenbaum, MSc

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine & Wharton School of Business
MD/MBA Candidate, 2013/2015


David Fajgenbaum, MD/MBA Candidate
National Students of AMF Support Network
  • Can you describe your background?[+]
    Doctors must play a larger role in the leadership of healthcare organizations to ensure that they remain patient-focused
    David Fajgenbaum, MD/MBA Candidate
            I am a third year MD/MBA at the University of Pennsylvania who was featured in the recent American Medical News article: Health System Changes Inspire More Med Students to Pursue Dual Degrees.

    I'm the co-Founder and Board Chair of the
    National Students of AMF Support Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one that was recently featured on CNN. After attending Georgetown University for undergrad, where I was a 2007 USA TODAY First Team Academic All-American, Rhodes Scholar Finalist, and Magna Cum Laude in Honors Human Sciences with Distinction graduate. After Georgetown, I attended Oxford University, as the recipient of the Joseph L. Allbritton Scholarship, and completed a 24-month master’s degree (M.Sc. by Research) in Public Health in 8 months. I have investigated the opportunities for collaboration between public health efforts targeting CVD prevention and cancer prevention, as well as independent research in the realms of college student bereavement, public health policy, and rare diseases.  For my work, I was awarded a 2007 Do Something Award, 2008 Reader’s Digest “Make it Matter" story of the year, a 2012 Eli Lilly "Welcome Back Award" for community mental health achievement, and profiled on NBC’s Today Show

    This is an exciting time for National Students of AMF, as I have been invited to speak at the
    European College of PsychoNeuroPharm Conference in Vienna about the role for non-pharmacologic mental/public health interventions, specifically regarding National Students of AMF themes of resilience, gender roles, therapeutic role of helping others during times of grief, etc...
  • Why did you decide to pursue a 2 year MBA program vs. a 1 year MBA?[+]
            I was originally enrolled in UPenn's 5-year MD/MBA program, scheduled to graduate in 2014. However, I decided to defer my MBA until after graduation from medical school, because I've recently gotten very involved in two start-ups focused on promoting/developing infrastructure for accelerating rare disease research. One is a Center through UPenn, and the other is a nonprofit focused on a specific rare disease, and coordinating/facilitating research collaborations and funding/tracking/jockeying research. These efforts, in addition to my Board Chair efforts at National Students of AMF, made it impossible to start my MBA this fall. I'm excited to finish up my MD and then pursue my MBA after graduation.
  • Why did you decide to pursue an MD/MBA?[+]
            My experience leading National Students of AMF and watching the impact of public health initiatives from my time at Oxford have shown me the powerful and wide-reaching impact that can be made through "high-level" policy/strategic planning on individual lives. This opportunity to have a wide-impact through health leadership is what has pushed me towards doing an MBA along with my MD.
  • What do you plan to do with your MBA?[+]
            I see myself doing organizational/leadership development work for a cause that has a direct impact on patient care in the future. Unfortunately, our medical education system does not teach extensively about leadership or the various players and systems beyond the patient.  Thus, many non-physicians are felt to be more appropriate for leading these kinds of programs and dictating the policies, procedures, and direction of the medical industry. Occasionally, this causes the focus to move away from the patient.

    I believe that it is essential to maintain the medical industry's focus squarely on the patient- therefore, MDs must play a larger role in leadership to ensure this focus.  It is my hope that the added training in MBA programs for MD students, like myself, will play a crucial roll in facilitating this.
  • Can you describe your current experiences?[+]
            Recently, I began serving as a Strategic Consultant to the University of Pennsylvania Center for Orphan Disease Research & Therapy. From my six years of experience developing AMF, I had lived every aspect of organizational development, including feasibility studies, needs assessment, stakeholder-informed strategic planning, searching/hiring/managing, and I have a particular passion for advancements in rare disease research and therapy.  So, as part of my "medical school" coursework, I have been able to spend several months conducting interviews with key stakeholders throughout the rare disease space, creating a strategic direction document, and serving as a member of the Search Committee for the inaugural Director. 
  • What advice would you give prospective students considering an MD/MBA?[+]
            Many aspects of health care and skills required for effective management are not taught during medical school. If you feel passionate about being a part of systems-wide change or high-level management, then a combined degree may be a good opportunity for you to pursue.  It is important to have a "story" that you believe in and that clearly comes through your essays, resume, and interviews for why you'd like to pursue an MD/MBA. Ex: your interest in medicine/health care stems from xxx, you've decided to study for an MBA because xxx, and you believe your MD/MBA training will put you in a position to achieve xxx.
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