When Sydney Carsten ’19 began her undergraduate career at Mays Business School, she did not know that she would create a class in which students learn about transforming the business of healthcare. The supply chain management and business honors major did not know she would become the first business undergraduate to take graduate classes in the School of Public Health. What Carsten did know, though, was that she had a passion for healthcare and helping others.

That has made all the difference.

“It’s been this journey of discovery and finding my own way,” Carsten said as she recalled how she found her passion for the business of healthcare. “I can make a difference in the university and find purpose in life.”

Healthcare, an industry of need and one of the Mays Grand Challenges, is what inspired Carsten to create this class. She wants to facilitate a dialogue with students about how they can transform the industry using business acumen, competencies, and mindsets. In doing this, Carsten is allowing students to become transformational leaders who can change and improve the business of healthcare.

“Healthcare is this great, hole-in-the-wall opportunity in which you can make your mark as an individual and make a difference in so many people’s lives,” said Carsten. “It’s an industry in which empathy, interpersonal relations, and caring about others is so important. Every day you can sit down and see that you made a difference.”

A passion for healthcare

From an early age, Carsten could be found reading history books about ancient medicine, but it was her grandparents who sparked her interest in health care. Her grandfather has multiple systems atrophy, a rare, degenerative neurological disorder affecting the body’s involuntary functions, and her grandmother has melanoma. With a vision to help people like her grandparents, Carsten is determined to improve the healthcare industry.

“While I’m not meant for engineering or having life or death directly in my hands, I can still help people,” said Carsten.

It was this mindset that motivated Carsten to take the Service Quality in Healthcare class taught by University Distinguished Professor of Marketing Leonard Berry. Berry, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a leader in health care reform, was crucial in Carsten’s foundational knowledge of business in healthcare. Through Berry’s teaching, Carsten was motivated to take classes from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health along with her Mays classes. Because Carsten would be the first business undergraduate to take a graduate class in the school of public health, it took months of conversation and paperwork before she was able to audit a Quality and Process Improvement class. She is now taking a Health Systems Management class this semester.

Nancy Simpson, director of undergraduate special programs, taught Carsten in her Seminar in Course Development and Delivery class. She could tell from the beginning Carsten was passionate about the contributions Mays Business School graduates could make in the healthcare industry.

“She had already taken the one healthcare-related course Mays offers. She wanted more, herself, and also wanted more of her peers to follow this path of study,” said Simpson. “I was very pleased to work with Sydney on this course,  and hope to see our undergraduate healthcare-related curricular offerings expand. We have already had preliminary conversations with the School of Public Health about offering a joint certificate. Sydney’s course is an opportunity to spur interest in such a certificate.”

Carsten said she hopes other students will follow in her footsteps. “There is such a gap in the healthcare industry for business improvements and business research,” she said. “I think the healthcare industry can benefit from listening to and learning from business people. They have been focused for so long – and rightly so – on just medicine, but now they can try to improve what they already have in different, creative ways.”

The course objectives of Carsten’s class, the Business of Healthcare (BUSN 481-508), are to:

  • Articulate the unique value a business person bring to a healthcare practice
  • Explain how each specific business major can make a difference in patient care as well as in the healthcare organization as a whole
  • Describe the different opportunities and types of jobs in the healthcare sector and the paths for business majors to attain these jobs
  • Analyze how students in each particular major can apply previously learned competencies and mindsets of a Mays Transformational Leader to the healthcare field
  • Be a reflective, lifelong leader

“The reality is that this class can just be an introduction,” Carsten said. “It can introduce students to the opportunity in this industry. If they decide to pursue it that would be awesome, but if they don’t they will have more knowledge about it. Getting the word out is the most important part. In this industry, you can only help others.”