Yale School of Management

A Student-Designed Independent Study Course Compares Models for Healthcare

While Congress is considering replacements for the Affordable Care Act over the next few months, a group of MBA students will be studying what the U.S. can learn from other healthcare systems. The students, who say that they were inspired by the uncertain future of the U.S. healthcare system, designed the course, themselves.

“We’ll be studying socialized medical systems—what they do well and what aspects we may be able to incorporate into our system,” says Kayla Ringelheim ’18, SPH ’18, one of the students who designed the course. “An entire single-payer system might not be feasible in America, but there’s still a lot to learn from those systems.”

Ringelheim and seven of her classmates are in the course, Comparative Health Systems Independent Study, which will include site visits to medical facilities and offices in Norway and the UK in April. The students are mostly joint-degree candidates, pursuing healthcare-related degrees at other Yale schools, including the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine, while they earn their MBAs.

Ringelheim and some of the other  course participants conceived of the independent study as a way to fulfill the MBA program’s Global Studies Requirement (GSR), which requires students to engage meaningfully with issues facing business and society in different regions of the world.

The students wanted a healthcare-focused theme for their GSR. “We have all dedicated our lives to healthcare,” says Nicole Krenitsky ’18, MED ’18. “We’re going to be working in the system and shaping its future.” Other students in the course include Lisa Carley ’17, MPH ’17; Tina Noohi SPH '17; Raymond Pichardo ’18, SPH '18; Emily Trask-Young ’18, SPH ’18; Avi Tutman ’18, SPH '18; and Cooper Watts ’18, SPH ’18.

Professor Howard Forman, director of Yale SOM’s joint-degree programs with the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health, is serving as faculty advisor. “This is entirely student-led and -driven,” Forman says of the independent study. “The collaborations that occur among students in different disciplines, and across Yale, make SOM a more enriching environment. In an interdisciplinary field like healthcare, everyone benefits.”

After a series of classroom seminars, the students will travel overseas to study aspects of the healthcare systems in the United Kingdom and in Norway. The students took advantage of Forman’s healthcare contacts and called upon Yale graduates in Europe for help in planning their visits. Of particular help was Anant Jani PhD ’09, research lead for the Value Based Healthcare Programme at the University of Oxford, where he leads international applied research projects focused on increasing value in healthcare. (Oxford’s Saïd Business School recently joined the Global Network for Advanced Management, becoming the network’s 29th member.)

The students will visit hospitals, community health centers, public health departments, universities, and mental health and social service facilities, seeking to hear a wide range of voices involved in healthcare administration, policy, education, and delivery.

“These countries have best-demonstrated practices for achieving cost-effective health outcomes that we can study and, hopefully later, incorporate into our own roles and practices,” Watts says. “Healthcare in the U.S. is going to continue to evolve.”

The course will focus on financing and reimbursement mechanisms; patient outcomes and population health; and innovative social services. A deep understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of the sector is critical to reform, says Watts: “We need to look at the problems in healthcare from many different viewpoints, and this course is designed to do that. SOM’s core curriculum has already introduced us to many of the perspectives, as well as several financial mechanisms involved.”

Leadership skills are also critical in healthcare, Krenitsky says, and they are typically not taught in medical schools. “That’s what we’re learning at SOM. We need to know how to lead teams, because in 20 years we aspire to be leading change in healthcare systems.”

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