Recently we had the privilege to discuss new horizons in the healthcare field with several industry trailblazers. These men, Nicholson Price II, Dan Hogan, Vasant Kumar Ramaswamy, and John O. Moore, have made tremendous strides to reform healthcare and have graciously offered their expertise on how undergraduate students can begin making a difference. It was my aim in examining these conversations to learn about current trends in healthcare and ponder where I can look to get involved in the future. Initially, I thought getting involved by solving current issues in healthcare took a sort of top down approach in that the field is examined broadly, gaps are identified, and programs are implemented to fill these cracks. However, I was very intrigued by Price’s opposing point of view, a self-described bottom down tactic.

Price identifies problems from people in the real world and subsequently thinks about what policies exist that have led to these problems. This approach, in my opinion, is much more effective in resolving issues since it uses current legislation instead of a continually changing it. By working within these bounds, real problems can be fixed. A particular example of this I found interesting was the lack of advancements in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. According to Price, the drugs themselves continue to progress but how they are concocted remains stagnant and outdated. I, along with the other Healthcare Innovators, see the pharmaceutical industry as a significant contributor to healthcare reformation, and so I hope to examine this issue further and see how it could be resolved with current laws. Furthermore, I learned from Price that the best way for students like us to make a difference is by becoming as educated as possible about specific issues like this so that we can contribute to big picture solutions.

Interestingly, Dan Hogan offered a similar perspective about how to become involved. Since we are located in the nation’s capital, Hogan advised us to intern in government departments that focus on healthcare policy. Even though I have only lived in Washington D.C. for a few months, I can say with conviction that it a place that should be taken advantage of by college students. At Georgetown University more specifically, it is common to hear of people’s internships or jobs on Capitol Hill, but I rarely hear of students with majors in the physical sciences taking part in these programs. Hogan’s advice reassured me that the capitol is absolutely a place where students like me with interests in medicine can get into heat of the action. Hogan also recalled how his early entrepreneurial experience benefited him far more than attaining his degree. I found this particularly intriguing because so much of the focus of college students is attaining that degree. In my opinion, we must make more room for gaining experience in the workplace to really make an impact on our field, and this practical experience could come in the form of a government healthcare internship I described above.

John O. Moore further echoed this sentiment in what he believes to be the area of healthcare that requires the most change. He illustrates the need to move away from blank educational materials without context and instead learn with interactive tools to gain practical information. This reminded me of the difference in learning approaches in lecture classes and laboratory classes. Moore, I believe, would stress learning in a laboratory setting far more than absorbing information in a lecture hall. I agree with him because I tend to be a person who learns by doing, and so if I were to be asked to perform a certain task, I would be better prepared had I practiced it realistically instead of fictionally in a textbook. Additionally, Moore shared with us his advice to find problems on our own and focus on the real problems, not the easy ones. Could we use Price’s bottom-up tactic to identify these problems that Moore describes? I believe this is something worth examining further, since it has come up in multiple conversations. In fact, Vasant Ramaswamy, CEO of Scriplogix, a company that offers strategy, market research, and data analytics to companies in the healthcare industry, identified a major issue in this way.

Ramaswamy has been in the healthcare and pharmaceutical fields for his entire career; he believes that the next horizon in this field is personalizing care navigation pathways for patients. Having shadowed a few physicians, I have seen this to be a huge problem since all patients have different beliefs and reactions. For example, I spent a lot of time with a bariatric, or weight-loss, surgeon and all of his patients acted differently. Some would exercise and abide by the strict diet but would never take the post-operative medicine. Others would be excellent follow-up patients but would never follow the diet. I agree with Ramaswamy in that healthcare should begin to focus on discovering and then focusing on the individual needs of patients. This, in turn, would require big data analytics, something else Ramaswamy is advocating for. By collecting substantial amounts of data, we can pinpoint where certain patients are experiencing problems and what we can do to fix them.

Having examined all of these conversations, what startled me most was the resemblance in the opinions of these professionals. Many offered similar advice on how we should get involved and where the healthcare innovation field is headed, and so this leads me to believe that continuing to speak with such distinguished individuals is one of the best ways to find my path in innovating healthcare. Thus my main takeaway from these discussions is to continue being proactive in my search for knowledge about the current happenings in the healthcare field. After all, the next huge breakthrough could be right around the corner.