News & Events

Healthcare Immersion Offers Industry “Bootcamp” for MBA Students

Students shadowed doctors, talked with CEOs, visited company offices, and more during the week

Over fall break at Owen, MBA students interested in the healthcare concentration donned scrubs and observed operating rooms and emergency departments as part of Healthcare Immersion. Since healthcare is such a complex field, the school puts on a week-long immersion designed to get the MBAs up to speed and give them a taste of the industry. Throughout the week, students shadow doctors and nurses, visit healthcare facilities and companies, and listen to leaders from healthcare organizations large and small. Below are four MBAs’ reflections on the experience.

Sam Taylor (MBA’21)

Sam Taylor

At 7 a.m. on a Wednesday over fall break, instead of setting off my alarm, I put on scrubs outside the operating room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. My classmates and I were all nervous about the surgery we would be shadowing that day. One by one, the OR staff assigned us to an operating room, and I found out that I would be watching a gastrointestinal surgery. At first, my presence was awkward, but once the surgeon heard that I was an Owen MBA student, he immediately struck up a conversation. The nurses, vendors, and other physicians chimed in about their role during the surgery. Midway through the procedure, the surgeon asked me to stand closer so he could explain the difficulties of this surgery.

This rare experience to engage and observe a surgery is why Vanderbilt Business School has a healthcare immersion week during fall break. The week consists of speakers, nursing units, emergency departments, and even a poverty simulation. Although I had prior experience working with hospitals, the healthcare immersion week taught me more in one week than I could have ever imagined. I understand the current climate of healthcare and where the industry is heading thanks to Professor Van Horn. He challenged the speakers (who were always executives) by asking tough questions and letting the students follow up with our questions.

But at the end of the week, the most impactful experience I had was when I shadowed a nurse in the palliative unit. During my shift, a patient passed away. Even though the nurse had no free time, she made time to comfort the family and let them express their emotions onto her. As an MBA student focused on healthcare, experiences like these are rare and cannot be taught in a classroom. —Sam Taylor

Students donned scrubs before shadowing doctors in the hospital

Samantha Givens (MBA’21)

Samantha Givens

Prior to Owen, I worked in the medical device sector at Stryker for nearly three years and was inspired to learn more about the various industry sectors and the interplay between them. Healthcare Immersion week provided a strong, immersive foundation for me to build off my existing healthcare knowledge and to enhance my perspective on the industry. The days were long but provided an opportunity to be exposed to varied perspectives on what the opportunities were in the industry and how some local and national players were looking to change the landscape of America’s healthcare system.

Equally as important as the exposure to healthcare business leaders in hospital administration, healthcare IT, home health, hospice care, and private equity was the clinical exposure. Throughout the week, I was able to interface with and observe nurse practices in spine units and the pediatric emergency department. I also observed a deep brain stimulation (DBS) neurosurgery for a Parkinson’s patient; this particular procedure is performed while the patient is awake and fully lucid. As an engineer by training, observing and understanding how surgical practice and engineering technology were utilized in tandem to drive patient outcomes was such a treat. Each of these experiences together were an invaluable, immersive learning experience that helped tether the ideas and underlying motivations for how each sector within healthcare works together to provide care.

I came to business school not only to learn and dive deeper into healthcare, but to expand my perspective and be exposed to the different perceptions held by players in the industry. Healthcare Immersion provided a basis on which I have been able to build out my own ideas about how to “fix” healthcare, to engage others in conversation surrounding healthcare policy and practice, and to provide clarity surrounding which sector of healthcare may be right for me based on which levers in the industry I wish to affect. That is such a powerful experience to have in just five days.

For anyone interested in healthcare as part of their career — or for anyone who is curious about how the current system works, the various approaches to tackling some of the problematic complexities, and how providers, payers and suppliers work together — don’t miss the chance to take part in Healthcare Immersion week. —Samantha Givens

Students learned to give CPR on training dummies

Jake Barry (MBA’21)

Jake Barry

Healthcare Immersion Week has been the single biggest factor in solidifying that Owen was the right school for me. After caring for my grandfather towards the end of his life, I moved to Boston to work for Seniorlink, a company that provides services, support, and technology to engage and empower family caregivers. It is my mission to help seniors age at home and to care for those that care for them. To become a leader in this industry, I knew I needed to develop a more well-rounded perspective of the entire healthcare ecosystem, from an economic, operational, and financial standpoint. When I graduate from Owen, I have no doubt that Healthcare Immersion Week will be one of the most impactful experiences in my development as a leader in the industry.

The blend of exposure to both clinical and business leaders helped me develop a well-rounded perspective of what is happening on the front lines of healthcare. I particularly enjoyed conversations with Paul Kusserow, CEO of Amedisys, and Travis Messina, CEO of Contessa Health, about rethinking traditional institutional care delivery models and moving towards the home. I remain enormously impressed by the composure and humanity Dr. Larry Stack displayed with patients during high-risk medical encounters at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Department. The knowledge that clinicians like him exist give me confidence in the future of healthcare.

I would like to thank Professor Larry Van Horn, Scarlett Gilfus, and Burch Wood for the facilitating such a transformative experience. The real world experienced I gained during this week has helped me enormously in Larry’s Healthcare Economics & Policy class, as well as Michael Burcham’s Healthcare Innovation & Evaluation lecture. —Jake Barry

Students toured the LifeFlight helipad on top of the hospital

Nora Johnson (MBA’21)

Nora Johnson

I had seven years of work experience in the healthcare industry and grew up in a healthcare family. Leading into immersion week, I thought I understood the various perspectives across the care continuum. However, the week challenged me to repeatedly reevaluate everything I believed I knew about healthcare.

Larry Van Horn and the rest of the Owen healthcare program team drew upon their connections to expose us students to the most innovative, thought-provoking, and influential healthcare leaders in Nashville and beyond. The diversity of viewpoints that we heard in such a condensed period was incredible. Speakers represented payers, providers, IT, healthcare administration, venture capitalists, and public policy.

Immersion week also allowed us to observe nurses and doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center during surgeries, critical care, and even labor and delivery! The highlight of the week for me was my rotation in the emergency department. The skill, tact, and ease with which the lead doctor navigated trauma after trauma was inspiring. The calmness in his voice when he spoke to a patient grounded me in the importance of letting doctors be doctors.

At times, the complexity of the issues in healthcare can seem insurmountable, but the collaboration fostered during immersion week left me energized and focused. Healthcare is full of bureaucracy.  There is a due level of respect in order to effectively drive change, which I saw throughout every aspect and interaction during the week. Students, speakers, and faculty shared the same goal of working together to address these problems holistically.

Healthcare immersion week is an eye-opening experience for any business student, regardless of their career goals. At some point in your life, you will be a patient, your family members will be patients, or perhaps you will have thousands of employees who will be patients. Healthcare impacts us all. I can’t recommend this immersion enough for anyone who is looking to learn more about the healthcare issues we face as a society moving forward. —Nora Johnson

Other Stories

Want to learn more about the Vanderbilt MBA?