Reprinted with permission from ASEE PRISM, APRIL 2001
ASEE is the American Society for Engineering Education
Written by Alice Daniels
When Jay Goldberg started his engineering career 20 years ago, he learned by trial and error that product development was not just about creating the perfect design. Indeed, there were myriad considerations-clinical trials, cost effectiveness, FDA regulations-that no one had ever told him about during his undergraduate education.
If Goldberg were starting out today, he might have bypassed the school of hard knocks for an easier entree into managing healthcare technology: a one-of-a-kind master's degree program-jointly offered by Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin-that prepares engineers to oversee technology in a clinical, industrial, or consultant-type setting. Instead, Goldberg directs it.
"Historically, new engineers have had a narrow perspective of a company," he says. "We want our students to have enough understanding of business and management so that they can effectively interact with all areas of the company and speak the same language."
New engineering graduates find the Healthcare Technologies Management Program-the first master's degree to combine the disciplines of technology, business, and healthcare-appealing because it gives them a head start on their careers. "If they're familiar with the economic and regulatory environments of healthcare delivery, they will know more than their colleagues and can hit the ground running," Goldberg says. Requirements for the degree include six core healthcare technology courses and five business courses, which are taught as part of the MBA program at Marquette.
Coming from a broad undergraduate education in biomedical engineering, Heather Posnanski, 22, chose the program because she wanted to more clearly define her career interests. "I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, but I didn't know if that would be in an industrial or clinical setting," she says. "Here, I've been exposed to so many more aspects of the industry than if I'd gone straight into a job after undergraduate school."
The program also draws students who have worked in industry or management but realize they need more formal business training to move up the company ladder. Bill Farley, a former naval officer who works in supplier quality for GE Medical Systems, says the program is helping him to make the transition from military management to business management. "The business classes are bringing me up to speed on terminology, accounting, how business managers make decisions, and what type of information they have available to them," says 31-year-old Farley. "But a bigger aspect is the industry as a whole. Understanding government regulations behind design and technology is pretty important to business."
Apart from regulatory requirements, students also study such topics as marketing and financial management, product development, and technology assessment. Independent study projects, designed by the students to tie in with their career goals, round out the program. One student who is interested in technology assessment is currently evaluating a new technology that monitors whether a patient is in shock. Students work with both faculty and industrial or clinical advisors and,in a sense, serve as consultants to their sponsors.
Supported by a grant from the Whitaker Foundation, the program currently has 14 students. Joelle Neider, one of two recent graduates, says the program "opened up a whole new avenue of job opportunities for me that were not strictly engineering or technical." For her independent study, Neider researched regulations for medical devices and developed a matrix of requirements that GE Medical had to meet for marketing a product in other countries. As a result, GE offered her a job as a regulatory affairs specialist. "The regulatory affairs job wouldn't have happened if I hadn't completed this program," she says.
Goldberg hopes the program will reach a wider audience in the near future. There are plans to make the entire program available online within the next few years. Two courses already online have been well received by the students, especially the one who brought his laptop to France on a business trip and in between meetings, and (let us hope) croissants, was able to download his class assignment.