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Monday, January 03, 2011 - Executive MBA alum applies business acumen, leadership skills to medical practice

Dr. Muhammad Haitham Al-Midani loves a good challenge.


It is that drive to solve problems that first drew him to the medical field, and, later, to join the first cohort in the OU School of Business Administration's Executive MBA (EMBA) program.


“I like to challenge my intellectual curiosity,” says Al-Midani, EMBA ’02, founder, Digestive Disease and Nutrition Center in Burton, Mich. Al-Midani launched the practice in 1981 after earning his medical degree at Damascus University College of Medicine in Syria, and completing his residency and his fellowship.


The business of medicine


Al-Midani  was initially drawn to the field of medicine because he felt he could alleviate suffering and provide solutions to sometimes complex or baffling digestive medical problems, but the field was evolving and growing increasingly complex. “In the 1990s we had the penetration of managed care,” he says. “I needed more skills to manage the practice and get into the business of medicine.”


In 2000, Al-Midani began researching MBA programs. He saw that while he was successful in the examining room, his practice and his patients were challenged by the business aspects of medicine — from navigating insurance companies expectations to post-operative care needs.


Among national and regional MBA programs available for physicians, OU's program was unique because of its emphasis on health care management. Other programs focused solely on hospital administration.


"I was intrigued because nobody else offered that at the time," Al-Midani says. "It allowed me to stay patient-focused in my practice, and become much more effective in managing the business support structures necessary."


Once he began the coursework on leadership, Al-Midani discovered the material had direct relevance to his day-to-day work as the head of a growing business. “I found out most people who make a change in their lives need to have leadership skills to make that change work,” he says.


The knowledge and experiences he gained over the next two years in the SBA's Executive MBA program helped him grow the Digestive Disease and Nutrition Center into a 15-employee operation. “Without having this knowledge, I would not have been able to take my practice to where it is today,” Al-Midani says.


Quality results


The center has become the only Michigan practice providing outpatient endoscopy surgery accredited by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization responsible for accrediting more than 17,000 health care organizations and programs across the United States. The practice earned accreditation for the last three years and the next three years, and is a recipient of The Joint Commission’s coveted Gold Seal of Approval, a distinction for meeting nationally recognized standards in areas that include quality care, infection control, patient safety and facility cleanliness.


“For me, to have accreditation for safety from the most stringent agency and to have a Gold Seal for quality, that is something to be proud of,” Al-Midani says. “We worked really hard to raise ourselves to those standards."


Also prized by Al-Midani is the review he received from one of the commission inspectors, who observed Al-Midani on the job as he moved from patient to patient and followed up with their families.


“He told me I worked very efficiently without any loss of quality of care,” Al-Midani says. “I run a very tight operation.”


Lifelong rewards


Al-Midani, who is pursuing a doctorate in science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, values and continues his involvement with the EMBA at OU. His practice’s finance manager completed the Executive MBA program in 2010. Al-Midani has been a strong supporter of OU’s EMBA program and serves as an ambassador for it. Sometimes he sits in on classes, simply to satisfy his intellectual curiosity.


Learning is for life, Al-Midani says. “I earned my MD when I was 24. I’m still studying, and I’m 60 now. Anyone who wants to learn, it’s open for them. The rewards are there for everybody.”

OU’s Executive MBA program is designed for professionals who are currently engaged in successful careers and want to build a strong business foundation while enhancing their leadership and management skills. The program offers the schedule flexibility required for a full-time executive. Concentrations in health care management and information systems leadership are available. The two-year program meets biweekly for classes and offers online support and flexibility to accommodate working professionals attending school while working. A maximum of 30 students are admitted to the 39-credit hour, 21-month program annually.



By Flori Meeks