The road to becoming a doctor is long and arduous: years of study, exhausting training, and, in many countries, significant cost. So why would a doctor change fields and become a management consultant? And why would a management-consulting firm need doctors?
More than 150 medical doctors work in our teams around the world, and the number of medical professionals is even higher if you count nurses, researchers, and other trained medical personnel.
Why join McKinsey?
For most of our doctors, it's a combination of the desire to help at scale and an interest in institutional change. Alexander Ng, an associate principal based in Hong Kong, was formerly a cardiology trainee treating heart attack patients in New Zealand. To see the same symptoms day in, day out frustrated him deeply. "It almost felt like you were at the bottom of a waterfall and there's no way you could stop the water from flowing," he says. He saw the great need for education and behavior change and decided to pursue a master's degree in public health at Harvard, after which he joined McKinsey. "The only way you can try to [stop a waterfall] is to dam it upstream," he says. Ng now works on shaping healthcare systems with hospitals, payors, governments, and nongovernmental organizations across Asia.
For Pooja Kumar, a principal based in Boston, an interest in international humanitarian relief pushed her toward medicine. After working in refugee camps in Azerbaijan and Zambia, she went to medical school and completed her internship, but she came to see medical training as just one piece of her broader interest in global public health. "Over time, I realized that my excitement and energy for healthcare was really about the potential at a systemic level versus an individual patient level, and that's what ended up drawing me here," she says. Kumar joined McKinsey after completing her internship and has worked on a variety of US hospital and global public-health projects.
For some doctors-turned-consultants, medicine is in the blood. Jean Drouin, a director based in New York, always considered medicine an option, even though he was also interested in business and international affairs. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were physicians. However, before attending medical school, Drouin joined McKinsey for two years as a business analyst. While he loved medical school, he decided to follow his interest in international institutions by completing an MBA and returning to McKinsey. His team works with clients to pioneer the application of technology and analytics in healthcare.
Bridging business and medicine
One constant for the doctors we spoke with is their ability to bridge business and medicine. Dustyn Baker, a senior implementation coach based in San Francisco and a practicing internal-medicine physician, works on the ground in hospitals across the United States to help implement new ways of working. "Within a hospital setting, there are so many people to consider," she explains. "One of the advantages of having a physician on the team is that I remember all of those people...I know that there's not just a nurse and a doctor—there's an OR tech, there's a scrub nurse, there's a chief nursing officer. As a physician, I know not only that these folks exist, but also the importance of incorporating their needs and views into any implementation plan we create."
Kumar's medical training allows her to empathize with other doctors and their patients. "It's unique to have worked in the system, and to have known how frustrating it felt when you were on the ward overnight trying to make a decision about two or three equivalent drugs without the exact evidence about cost," she remembers.
Drouin agrees. When he interacts with other physicians, they recognize a peer. "What's been very powerful for us is having a mixture of clinicians and nonclinicians on our consulting teams. Clinicians help build trust."