By P. Daniel Ward, MD, MS, FACS

Profit, loss, revenue, human resources, contracts, COGS, Net-30, Net-60, Net-90, quarterly report, ROI, AP, AR, spreadsheet, balance sheets.

OK, how many of you reading this list felt excited while reading these words? I suspect that very few, if any of you, read these terms with exhilaration. Furthermore, I suspect the visceral reaction that you all felt was more along the lines of nausea, rather than happiness, joy, and peace.

As physicians, surgeons, and healthcare providers, many of us have natural negative reactions to these terms. After all, there is a reason we chose to spend our time learning about the intricacies of the human body instead of the terms listed above. In addition, medical training doesn’t really help develop our interest in these subjects. Most medical schools and healthcare training programs view business in a negative light—as if it’s in direct conflict with proper patient care. But regardless of our natural biases toward business matters, we can’t avoid them.

Physicians: Don’t Be ‘on the Menu’

One of my favorite phrases is “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” In that spirit, I strongly believe that physicians should learn to embrace the business of medicine. I posit that many of the problems and frustrations that we face in medicine can be tied to the fact that we, as physicians, were “not at the table” and have now found ourselves “on the menu.”

The result is the current state of medicine in which we find ourselves—where physicians are unhappy with their jobs, their career choice, and their lives. What is it about the path to becoming a practicing physician and then actually being a practicing physician that wrings out the idealism, optimism, and happiness from some of society’s best and brightest?

The issue is obviously complex, with multiple contributing factors. However, I would argue that many of our frustrations have transpired because most of the medical community has been unable or unwilling to sit at the table where the decisions were made. We’ve enabled the business as well as political interests to sit at the table without us—and we are now paying the price for it.

Be Business-Savvy

Despite all the negativity surrounding medicine, it is not too late! Physicians are still loved and admired by the public (for the most part) and we are still necessary to perform the services we are uniquely qualified to do. (Arguments against independent practice of non-physicians is a topic we can cover later). I think that medicine is still the very best career and consider it a privilege to perform it.

One of the key reasons I’m so happy about my career choice? Because I own my own practice, along with an operating room, some medical spas, and some real estate. The business aspects of medicine provide me with the freedom to further enjoy my job, my patients, and my co-workers.

In this space, I hope to share the insights, joys, and lessons that I and others have learned along the way. By doing so, I hope to help every physician better understand that embracing and enacting business principles into our lives is liberating, exhilarating, and allows us to live the lives that we thought we were going to live back when we made the decision to go into medicine.

P. Daniel Ward, MD, MS, FACS, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and owner of Form Derm Spa in Salt Lake City.