(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Whether Delip Patel is a sucker for punishment is still up for debate, but there’s no denying his status as a trailblazer.

Patel, who just finished his second year of medical school, is taking a path never before traveled at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Rather than move to Temple during the summer to begin his third-year clinical clerkships, he is staying in College Station to earn his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

In previous years, a student with multiple interests was forced to make a difficult choice when it came to selecting a post-baccalaureate degree – medical or business school? With the details of the M.D./M.B.A. dual degree program finalized in late 2004, Patel’s class was the first to be offered such an opportunity.

“I have no business background whatsoever,” Patel admitted. “But, when we were told about this program during our first year, I was immediately interested.”

To be considered for the program, Patel had to prove his academic strength during the first year of medical school. But after a solid showing as a first-year med student and spending the summer in the lab doing research, he had made up his mind.

Patel applied for the M.D./M.B.A. program in January 2006, went through the interview process and was approved for admittance by committees at Mays Business School and the HSC-COM.

Because he is interested in both medicine and business, why did Patel ultimately choose medical school as the path to his future career?

“Growing up, my grandmother had heart problems and eventually died of a stroke,” Patel said. “I guess it was then that I decided I wanted to become a cardiologist so I can help people. Medical school gives me the ability to do that and allows me to use my creativity.”

The Houston-born, New Jersey-bred Patel remembers playing video games through his childhood years, a hobby he says helps him even today. His affinity for cutting-edge technology and problem solving has gone from a boy’s curiosity to a young man’s desire to become a physician and use the latest tools of the trade.

Having begun his medical school training with more than 80 other students, Patel has made some lifelong friends among his classmates. While they begin their clerkships at Scott & White Hospital at the end of June, he will start class work for his M.B.A.

Patel admits it is difficult to be left behind, but there is one huge benefit.

“I have formed some great bonds with these people, so it is hard to see them go,” Patel said. “But the great thing is that my younger brother, Kushal, will be a second-year medical student this coming year, so it all works out for the best. My brother and I are roommates, and this way, we will graduate at the same time. In some ways I feel like I am losing a family, but by staying here, I have the opportunity to finish medical school with a family member.”

For many people, the idea of medical school is a dream. Patel is determined to make medical and business school a reality.

“If you look at the current state of medicine in our country, there are so many problems, and most of them relate in some way to business,” Patel said. “Doctors are losing control of their capability to see patients and do their jobs because they get so wrapped up in paperwork and legal issues.”

Patel is determined to become a different kind of physician by gaining more leverage through his business degree.

“Physicians have the opportunity to get involved in administration, as well as hospital and pharmaceutical company boards,” Patel said. “Getting my M.B.A. will allow me to take on a greater responsibility beyond just medicine. I want to be a strong participant in the future discussions about medicine, and I believe one has to know business and how it affects health care to do so.”

Patel took his first medical licensing exam last week and starts his M.B.A. coursework July 5 for Texas A&M’s second summer school session. The M.B.A portion of his dual degree will require a year of study and a health-related business project during his fourth year of medical school.

After having settled in to his medical school routine, is Patel worried about switching gears?

“I am a little nervous,” Patel confessed. “I am going to be thrown into a totally new world, but I think it will be fun figuring everything out. I am looking forward to being in an atmosphere with people with such diversity of experience, and I know I will bring something to the table, too, as a medical student.”

“This decision to go to business school is one that will have a predominant impact on my life, so this is huge for me,” Patel continued. “The future looks so exciting – I want to learn, see patients, teach…everything. I guess you could say that I just want to live my life to the utmost.”

— Marketing & Communications