From one perspective, Dr. Susan Love is really just another midcareer entrepreneur looking to sharpen her management skills by entering business school. After all, Love, who at 32 rose to become the first female surgeon on the staff of Boston's prestigious Beth Israel Hospital, revolutionized the treatment of breast cancer by applying to it such entrepreneurial approaches as teamwork and focus. As founder of both the Faulkner Breast Evaluation Clinic, in Boston, and the UCLA/Revlon Breast Center, in Los Angeles, she has assembled staffs of surgeons, nurse-specialists, plastic surgeons, radiation therapists, and medical oncologists, prodding them to take a multidisciplinary approach. Last year Love decided to attend a part-time two-year executive-M.B.A. program at the Anderson School at UCLA. Why? Inc. executive editor Jeffrey Seglin recently got the chance to ask her.
Dr. Susan Love: Overall, the move toward managed care is a good one. But the reforms in health care have been run entirely by business, without much input from the medical profession. Part of the reason for that is that the medical profession had the most to lose by reforming health care, because in the previous fee-for-service system we were really in fat city. The first wave of health-care reform has really focused on ratcheting down costs, and that's been fine, since there certainly was a lot of fat. But soon we're going to need to look at competing on quality. I don't know that businesspeople are able to make the decisions that will need to be made. What's needed are some people who are bilingual--who speak both business and medicine. The number of those people is growing. In this executive-M.B.A. course, there are 8 physicians out of a class of 72. So there is a growing understanding that if physicians want to have any say, we'll need to understand the business side of medicine.
Inc.: What has prompted physicians to act now on this awareness?
Love: In the past, medical people never had to be good at business, because it was such a great market. You didn't really have to compete. There was lots of business for everybody. Everybody was being paid well. We were all really running private practices that were indeed small businesses. We did it without any training, and we did it badly. But that didn't matter, because we were making so much money. Now all of a sudden that's not the case. Most physicians I know have seen their incomes go down 30% over the past year.
Inc.: When you were running a private practice, did you give much thought to how you managed it?
Love: No. In medical school, they don't teach it at all. In fact, in medical circles, anything to do with business is thought to be crass.
Inc.: Aside from what you've learned about business, what have you learned about yourself as a manager?
Love: I'm a very good leader but a terrible manager. I'm really good at the vision thing and can get people to volunteer and want to work with me, but I'm not very good at managing those people and delegating. I want everybody to be happy all the time.
Inc.: When you return to your practice, how relevant do you think any of this will be?
Love: It's a whole new framework and a new language, so it really freshens my way of looking at what I've been doing. We have an operations course, and even the stuff that's about making the factory work better is very relevant. For doctors, the inventory bin is the waiting room. So I'm learning not just how to make this process work most efficiently but also how to satisfy everybody's needs. What are the key elements, and how can you control them? What's most surprising is that I'm loving it, actually.
SUSAN M. LOVE, P.O. Box 846, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272; 310-230-1712 26