Bob Lowry


AUBURN -- The Auburn University College of Business starting this fall will offer a new 21-month executive MBA program with a curriculum designed strictly for physicians.

The Auburn Physicians Executive MBA program, which will be launched fall quarter 1999, will be restricted to physicians, says Robert Niebuhr, director of the PEMBA program.

"Physicians are in a different ball game," Niebuhr says. "They can't just depend on an administrator to make decisions about how they want to grow their practice. Physicians have developed very strong clinical skills, but have not had the need previously to develop business skills."

About two dozen students are expected to enroll this fall in the new program, which has been marketed through direct mail, newspaper and medical journal advertising and presentation to various groups in the healthcare industry.

Kim Kuerten, assistant director of the AU College of Business MBA programs, says the PEMBA program is modeled after the successful Executive MBA program begun in 1998 by the College of Business.

The PEMBA program is also an offshoot of a certificate continuing education program for physicians that was administered by AU and the Southern Medical Association.

"One of the real selling points of the PEMBA has been our relationship with SMA," says Niebuhr, noting that doctors who enroll in the PEMBA will earn 40 continuing medical education hours through the two residency programs.

Recognizing that the continuing education program taught many general business basics, Kuerten said, "We decided to design an actual degree program for physicians."

"Physicians getting MBAs is becoming much more common," she says. "There's a fair number of programs for health care providers, but there's not that many certified, accredited MBA programs for physicians."

Two of the better known are at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but neither have the same model as Auburn's.

The Auburn program was designed to accommodate doctors who may have difficulty leaving their practice for more than a couple of days a week, said Kuerten.

"Instead of meeting every other weekend or in the evenings like most other PEMBA programs, students will meet in Auburn for five Thursday through Sunday residency periods and participate in two week-long residencies -- one in London and the other in Washington, D.C.," she said.

The remainder of the course work will be taken via videotapes and Internet- based instruction.

Kuerten says many physicians who have inquired about the MBA program are asking, "What am I going to be able to do when I'm through and have an MBA?"

"It will equip them to more effectively manage their practices, understand the managed-care environment, create and implement new financial plans and more efficiently manage an integrated healthcare delivery system," she said.

And Kuerten added that some physicians "may view it as a stepping stone into hospital or HMO administration or out of medicine completely."

The Auburn PEMBA includes six distance learning courses -- fundamentals of economics, statistics, fundamentals of accounting, healthcare finance, advanced corporate finance and health services marketing. The five campus residency courses are behavioral management, managed health care environment, finance and strategic management. The eight-day London residency will focus on comparative healthcare systems, while the eight-day Washington residency will teach legal/financial aspects of healthcare systems.

"This is the same core as an MBA curriculum, but we've tailored the cases and examples and structure towards healthcare," says Kuerten.

Auburn's program is priced at $45,000, which includes tuition, books, lodging and meal expense for all residencies and airfare for the London and Washington residencies.

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CONTACT: Kuerten, 334/844-4853 ; and Niebuhr, 334/844-6520.