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what i’m doing with my mba

Cory Goldberg is a Toronto physician who’s taking an MBA through Queen’s University in Kingston.Mario Madau

This story is the third story in a series that features students and graduates who are using their MBAs and EMBAs in unique fields other than the traditional ones of finance or consulting.

Cory Goldberg is a plastic surgeon who is about to give himself a makeover.

He is not going under his own knife. But he is doing something quite incisive in deciding to go back to school to take an MBA.

Another degree might seem superfluous for a 40-year-old doctor who already has a bachelor of science degree in physiology from the University of Toronto and a medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, followed by a seven-year residency in plastic surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, plus another year of study of craniofacial surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. (We'll stop there so you can catch your breath.)

But ask Dr. Goldberg and he'll tell you that getting an MBA is essential for what he wants to do next: biotechnology and private health care.

"The goal of my MBA is to enhance the various aspects of businesses I am already involved in and use it for avenues for new growth," he says.

Those businesses include Sanctuary Day Spa, a medical spa offering aesthetic services with four locations across the Greater Toronto Area. Dr. Goldberg is both a partner and the medical director of the skin care and wellness business. His own practice, which he opened in 2008 in Toronto's Etobicoke neighbourhood, specializes in facial rejuvenation and facial surgery.

Dr. Goldberg plans to continue with both the spa and his practice when he returns to the classroom in July to take an 18-month MBA jointly offered by his alma mater Queen's in association with Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

It's a tough program: alternate weekends spent in electronic classrooms around the world (the lectures are done by teleconferencing), conferring with small groups to solve business problems thrown at them by their professors. Oh, and there will be approximately six weeks of international travelling on top of that.

"I've been told that the program can be demanding, that it often causes couples to end in divorce," relays Dr. Goldberg. But he's already got that one figured out.

He and his wife split more than a year ago. Which isn't to say it was a premeditated move (because it wasn't). But his recent separation has galvanized Dr. Goldberg to embrace a new phase of his life.

An MBA, he believes, will help him do it.

Biotechnology, generally defined as the use of living systems and organisms to make new products, is a relatively new field for him, and he wants the extra education to be better prepared to handle the challenge.

The plan is to combine a business degree with his clinical experience and basic science knowledge to advance an industry committed to producing medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs and therapies.

In biotechnology, the science and the business components are performed by separate teams or individuals within an organization, and this has led to some costly mistakes.

But armed with an MBA, Dr. Goldberg wants to take it a step further: He wants to be the business person who is also the clinician and the scientist – three professionals rolled into one.

It's an inspired idea, Dr. Goldberg says, because "inventions are brought to market that have been well-funded by a pharmaceutical company but which don't work or don't have a good clinical use."

He cites the example of a total knee replacement with replaceable parts that simulate normal ligaments – this looks good in theory but in reality doesn't work, he says. Yet, someone made it, spending millions to get it launched, only to find out no one wanted it. Mr. Goldberg explains why:

"To a business person and maybe even a basic scientist, it would seem to make sense and would seem to be immensely useful. But a clinician would be able to see right away that such an invention has no clinical utility because, practically speaking, replacing the ligaments won't extend the lifespan of the implant.

"So it's an idea that should have been stopped before it was developed. It should not have had the business investment to bring it to market because it's a dud. That was millions of dollars worth of lost investment on top of lost people hours. It highlights the need to have a clinician involved, working with the business person involved as well as the others."

"My goal will be to wear all three hats," Dr. Goldberg adds. "I don't know of anyone else who has that combination."

Besides biotechnology, Dr. Goldberg will apply his MBA to private health care. "It's a significant issue, and a bit of a hot topic given the political implications," he says.

"But I believe strongly that with an increasing population, an aging population, and increasing costs of health care delivery, that a dual system with private health care is inevitable, as the public system is at capacity."