Business Education Pumps New Life into Career of Cardiologist
Any way you slice it, George Bittar’s career as an interventional cardiologist has been a resounding success. But after three decades of practice, Bittar realized changes in medicine and in his own life challenge his future in the field.
“Being an interventional cardiologist, in my opinion, has a limited life span. As you get older, getting up at three and four in the morning and then working all day gets a little tricky. So I’ve been thinking, there’s going to be a time where I segue out of that,” Bittar said.
But segue into what? As Bittar began contemplating this transition, his interest in business increased. He was finding himself bumping shoulders with businesspeople through volunteer work with the Alzheimer’s Association, and as Bittar says, “It’s pretty interesting stuff.”
Bittar set his sights on a hospital administration position; he felt it was the best way to combine his new interest in business with his medical experience. But there was still an obstacle in his way: he didn’t have the business acumen to take on the role.
“I’ve had administrators come and go over the course of 25 years. And they would always politely listen to what the physician said, but I never felt that they were really valuing us from a business perspective,” Bittar said. “They would say, ‘You’re a doctor, and you just don’t know the ins and outs of business.’ At the time we all kind of laughed it off, but it stuck with me.”
Influenced by these experiences, Bittar enrolled in the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Flexible MBA program. He knew the Carey program would give him an edge in his new career track, but what he didn’t realize was how immediate the dividends would be.
Shortly after notifying his superiors of enrolling, Bittar was promoted to vice chief of staff for Union Memorial Hospital’s medical executive committee.
“After they knew about my commitment to the degree and my push toward this track, they said, ‘We’d like to jumpstart this’,” Bittar said. “It really jumped me six years ahead, and I know it never would’ve happened without me pursuing the business degree.”
Bittar added that his academic experiences have also begun to bleed into his medical practice. He specifically cited his leadership class, which he called “the most fun,” as particularly helpful to someone in his profession.
“It helped me deal with a lot of issues in my own office,” Bittar said. “It helps you refocus how you manage personnel and how you conduct meetings. It was something I never thought about before but it set boundaries that I found amazingly helpful.”
Bittar says he is one of a small group of doctors that values business education, but that he is constantly encouraging other doctors to pursue the MBAs if it is of interest to them.
“Medicine has changed, cardiology has changed, and it has become an evolution from a true medical practice to the business of medicine,” he said.
“I’ve had a bunch of people come up to me and say, ‘I wish I could do this.’ And I tell them that there are all these opportunities being offered and doors being opened because of what I am doing,” he said.
“I am convinced I wouldn’t have even gotten where I am today without it.”