Being an interventional cardiologist, in my opinion, has a limited life span,” he says. “As you get older, getting up at three and four in the morning and then working all day gets a little tricky.” So he began to think, he says, about a time when he could “segue out of that.”
But segue into what? As Bittar began contemplating making a transition, his interest in business increased, especially after encountering business people through his volunteer work with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Bittar decided he would aim for a hospital administration position, 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,” he says. “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. 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.” Such experiences led Bittar to enroll in the Carey Business School’s Flexible MBA program. He hoped the Carey program would give him an edge in his new career track. But he didn’t realize how immediate the dividends would be. Shortly after he notified his superiors that he had enrolled at Carey, he 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 jump-start this,’”
Bittar says. “It really jumped me six years ahead, and I know it never would’ve happened without me pursuing the business degree.” Bittar quickly saw the benefits of his new business training at work. He cited his leadership class at Carey, which he called “the most fun,” as particularly helpful. “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 constantly promoting business education to other doctors who may have an interest in pursuing it.
“Medicine has changed, cardiology has changed, and it has become an evolution from a true medical practice to the business of medicine,” he says. “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 his business training]. I am convinced I wouldn’t have even gotten where I am today without it.”
– Luke Lavoie