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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

UCI Launches Chief Medical Officer Program

Aspiring chief medical officers typically pursue an MBA or attend leadership classes over several years to climb the management ladder as physician.

Both Irvine-based Tarsus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: TARS) CMO Dr. José Trevejo and former Fountain Valley-based MemorialCare Medical Foundation CMO, and now-CEO, Dr. Mark Schafer did the latter.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have a formal program that taught me how to be a CMO,” Trevejo, who last year joined the drugmaker that now counts a nearly $320 million valuation, told the Business Journal.

The University of California, Irvine is hoping to change that with its recently launched CMO Program, which aims to “equip senior physician leaders with the skills and tools required to step into a C-suite role that encompasses clinical operations and business management.”

The program, offered through UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, counts notable backers.

MemorialCare’s Schafer is a guest speaker, and former Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Irvine-based St. Joseph Hoag Health CEO and current chairman of mental health organization Be Well OC Dr. Richard Afable is a faculty member.

UCI’s CMO training program is one of many career advancement courses available in the nearly $360 billion global training industry, according to data from TrainingIndustry.com.

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School is the only other university offering a CMO training program, which was launched last year in partnership with the same Boston-based online education platform UCI is using—Emeritus.

UCI’s inaugural CMO course is expected to start this June. About 40 people are expected to take the class, the school projects.

For Current, Future CMOs

The nine-month, $18,500 program targets CMOs who are learning on the job and medical professionals looking to advance their career with or without the sponsorship of their health systems.

Its courses aim to impart knowledge and skills in finance, operations and healthcare management to physicians, many of whom did not learn such in medical school.

“They don’t really teach the business side of medicine in medical school or in residency training,” Schafer told the Business Journal. “Maybe in the last five years, they’ve added a little bit of the business side, but it’s not in depth.”

Specialized Skills Learned

For Trevejo and Schafer, attending general healthcare leadership classes were not enough to teach them the knowledge and skills they believed were necessary for CMOs.

Trevejo read books on management in his spare time and Schafer relied on his fellow business-savvy team members to learn about finance, accounting and legal.

If UCI’s CMO program were available earlier, Trevejo and Schafer would have attended it, they said.

“I wish they had that program 10 or 15 years ago,” Schafer said. “It would have been great for myself.”

Given recent challenges in the healthcare industry, from “workforce shortages to staff burnout to making healthcare more affordable to patients,” the CMO role now “goes beyond patient safety and medical care and extends to navigating the business and administrative sides of healthcare,” the school says.

Online Program

University officials designed the new CMO training program to easily fit into the busy schedule of a full-time physician.

“We assume that if you’re on your way to C-suite leadership, you’re highly in demand in the hospital and taking time off is super improbable,” program Faculty Director Martiza Salazar Campo told the Business Journal.

The curriculum comprises of asynchronous online classes with five- to seven-minute pre-recorded lessons.

“You could watch our modules in the morning, when you have time before doing rounds, or listen to our podcast series in the car,” Campo said.

Schafer appears in one of the program’s podcast episodes, where he discusses how to motivate physicians as a leader.

“He has changed the hearts and minds of thousands of physicians, which most hospital leaders call that a tough group to get to change the way they do things,” Campo, who interviewed Schafer in the podcast, said.

The training course concludes with a three-day networking event on UCI campus.

Other Leadership Programs

The new program belongs to a host of other recently launched management training courses in the Merage School’s Business’ Leadership Development Institute.

The institute’s programs span across multiple industries, including venture capital, real estate and arts, media and entertainment.

The center offers three healthcare-focused curriculums, which comprise of CMO, chief nursing officer and healthcare management programs. A fourth program, called Emerging Healthcare Executives, is set to launch this spring, according to the institute’s website.

“We’re training the next generation of leaders,” Campo said.

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