When planning your course load towards becoming a healthcare professional, your first thought might not be the Scheller College of Business. However, Professor Bill Todd is trying to change that. Though the United States healthcare industry is the largest in the world, totaling a massive 20 percent of the US economy, it ranks only 37th in terms of quality. Thus, over the past six years, Professor Todd aims to combat this trend through his Management in the Healthcare Sector course (MGT 3662). By crafting an interdisciplinary course spanning topics covering the United States’ healthcare industry, he hopes to help Georgia Tech students find unconventional paths into the healthcare industry so they can play a part in the solving the problems it faces.
With coursework ranging from analyzing public health trends across populations, to medical device engineering, to the ethics of palliative and end of life care, students are educated on the multitude of issues the healthcare industry faces today. As Professor Todd says, “the industry has a myriad of problems, but that’s okay, because that creates opportunities for smart Georgia Tech people to come into the industry and become a part of the solution.” Professor Todd “want[sic] students to have some insight into how to get into [the healthcare industry] … and it’s proven to be very popular and successful.”
Rather than the group work and projects common in the BME curriculum, Management in the Healthcare Sector emphasizes collaboration and discussion with other majors. From BME and pre-med to Public Policy and Business, students interact with others through debate and discussion, working together to devise solutions to the various cases presented in class. To Professor Todd, it isn’t the memorization of the coursework to the smallest detail that is important; rather, the goal is to make connections between what you already know, to learn how to work across disciplinary lines, and to communicate with others who may not share your perspective.
While other Biomedical Engineering courses may focus more on the engineering sides of the healthcare industry, Healthcare Management approaches the industry from a different angle. However, this is not a burden for BME students; rather, it’s to their benefit. Professor Todd believes that without such outside experiences, “people get frozen into their specialty area, and that’s when bad things happen.” Through the intentional integration of students from across vastly different fields of study, different viewpoints become the norm. Students are forced outside of their comfort zone, to view issues not just through the lens of engineering, but through business, management, ethics and more, allowing for greater insight into the healthcare industry and its issues.
Through the course, students gain the skills and knowledge regarding the healthcare industry they otherwise might never have gotten; prominent members of the health industry in and around Atlanta are frequently brought into classes to speak to students about their experiences, from Grady’s head of surgery, to the former head of the CDC. Professor Todd recounts, “one of my very best BME students… called me and said ‘I’ve been accepted into Emory, and the interview was what I think tipped me over… and every single answer that I gave was content from your course.’” A different former student had never heard of epidemiology before Healthcare Management; she’s now the State Epidemiologist for Zika control in Georgia.
The healthcare industry isn’t just about the physicians and the nurses on the front lines; it’s also about the engineers, the managers, the epidemiologists, and the scientists in the background too. Through Management in the Healthcare Sector, BME students have the opportunity to see past the immediate healthcare provides to gain insight into the many routes into the healthcare industry they may not know.