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The business of good health

Muta Issa ’04EMBA
Associate Professor of Urology, Emory University
Chief of Urology, Atlanta Veterans Affairs
Medical Center
Atlanta, Ga.

When Muta Issa ’04EMBA became chief of urology for the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he took on certain administrative projects as part of the job. He soon realized there was much more to the practice of medicine than caring for patients.

“Managing the budget, increasing efficiency while decreasing costs, upgrading information technology systems . . . I had to learn proper business practices and processes by default,” he says.

Instead of resenting the managerial aspect of his job, Issa became intrigued—and dismayed.

“The administration of medicine is so archaic,” he says. “Many doctors feel that the business side contaminates the patient-care side. That is naïve. We believe that all we care about is patients, but we don’t see that we hurt patients by being inefficient, high cost, and unable to prioritize. I believe business and economics should be part of the curriculum in medical school.”

Issa, who was born in Iraq and received his medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, decided to heed his own advice. In 2004, he received an EMBA from Goizueta, as well as the W. Cliff Oxford Executive MBA Decisions and Information Analysis Award.

“It was the best education I’ve received in my life, and I’ve been educated at some of the best universities in Europe and America,” notes Issa. “The principles I learned have helped me to make the department I manage highly efficient, to retain all of my staff, and to save millions—and these are often win-win solutions that benefit the patient and the budget.”

For example, he began hosting a Continuing Medical Education regional conference that has raised enough funds to cover the teaching budget for his department for the next eight years.

Last year was an emotional one for Issa—in May, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for 2005, given to Americans of all ethnic backgrounds to honor their contributions to the United States, alongside such VIPs as Lee Iacocca and Penny Marshall. Then, one week after the ceremony, he underwent successful treatment for prostate cancer.

“Let’s bridge the gap between the business community and the medical community,” he says. “We must be able to talk both languages. I can do that now, and it’s wonderful.”

—Mary Loftus

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