The Business of Healthcare

Across the Texas A&M University System, leaders are collaborating and calling on one another’s expertise to help tackle the challenges of the healthcare realm. Mays Business School is right there among the College of Architecture, the Health Science Center, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Medicine, the School of Public Health, and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Leading the charge at Mays is Dean Eli Jones ’82, who helped shepherd the business school through a process to identify its strategic pillars, known as Grand Challenges—one of the three is healthcare.

“There is no issue more urgent or life-altering than healthcare, and it is our duty—and our honor, really—as a business school to help ensure that this discipline is handled with care and foresight,” he said. “We should try to make it easy on the practitioners to perform at their highest levels, while streamlining the business processes and procedures that encompass them so that these growing systems can continue to thrive.”

The field is growing so rapidly, stellar business graduates are needed to bring cutting-edge knowledge and processes to all areas of operations, such as administration, human resources, finance, and accounting. “These are all areas where Mays researchers and graduates are on the forefront,” Jones said. “It is a natural fit. When we partner with our counterparts across the campus in an interdisciplinary way, we strengthen our base of knowledge and are able to bring even more results to the table.”

Discussions about joint appointments, research, and degree programs are underway between the College of Medicine and Mays, said Carrie L. Byington ’85, vice chancellor for Health Services, senior vice president of the Health Science Center, and dean of the College of Medicine. “The long-term benefits of such partnerships are immense,” she said. “And we are so close to Mays, it makes sense to capitalize on that.”

Byington said she is interested in developing pipeline programs for business undergraduate students to transition to medical school similar to the ones existing with science and engineering programs. “We think that helps them become leaders because they have the training and expertise before they study medicine,” she said. “Then they will be fully prepared to enter the workforce with the technical and business skills.”

Byington also would like to encourage research that could add to the body of evidence regarding topics such as healthcare payments and delivery. “I’d be very interested in cooperating to help inform policy,” she said. “I like evidence-based policy.”

Jay E. Maddock, dean of the School of Public Health, echoed Byington’s sentiments. “We are looking at areas like how to improve conditions for employees and patients, how to reduce costs, and how to effectively and efficiently run the organizations,” he said. “Those are all business-based topics. It makes perfect sense to partner with the business school to tackle them together.”

Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the school worked with McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship last spring to host the Blackstone Launchpad in the CVM Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) and promote entrepreneurship opportunities within the college. “The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences focuses on creating a climate of innovation that encourages new ideas on all fronts,” she said. “Collaborating with Mays across our unique disciplines has proven beneficial to our faculty and students alike. We will continue to develop strong partnerships within this culture of innovation as we celebrate wins, applaud attempts, and encourage possibilities. The possibilities for future collaboration are unlimited as new models of veterinary healthcare delivery systems are developed in an exponentially changing world.”

Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture, said the school works closely with Mays on multiple disciplines across Texas A&M University.
“The breadth, depth, range, and diversity of the scope of activities of the College of Architecture in health offers a natural complement to disciplines within Mays Business School,” he said.

Within the College of Architecture, The Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD) focuses on understanding the impact that design has on health, whether in ways that protect health, or develop/enhance it, or restore it once it has been impaired. That mission demands strong connectivity with other disciplines —especially business—because of the extraordinary influence of the health industry on the U.S. economy. Beyond its enormity in financial terms, the health industry finds itself in a season of highly disruptive technologies, each of which offers both threats and opportunities to the status quo.

Because of the business implications in virtually every design-for-health conversation, the CHSD is working closely with Mays in a variety of ways. In 2017, the CHSD created the Academic Circle, composed of the dean or dean’s representative from all of the colleges in the Texas A&M University System to advise the center on interdisciplinary activities and opportunities of mutual interest. Arvind Mahajan, associate dean for Graduate Programs at Mays, is the school’s Academic Circle representative.

Mahajan also was invited along with fellow Mays faculty members Jon Stauffer and James Abbey to the CHSD roster of Faculty Fellows—created to foster more interdisciplinary scholarship. At the request of CHSD leadership, two Mays faculty members are considering participating in a research project involving the role of facilities in achieving a health organization’s strategic mission.

In addition, the CHSD is working with Mays administrators to identify courses in its curriculum that would be well suited as electives for graduate students pursuing the CHSD Certificate in Health Systems and Design.

Pamela Matthews, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the school has numerous healthcare initiatives in development—many in collaboration with Mays and other schools. “Through our partnership in Startup Aggieland, the College of Liberal Arts invites students to build on expertise in healthcare to search for creative solutions. With research and teaching strengths in health communication, medical humanities, mental health, and the sociology and economics of health, our college’s 8,000+ students and 450 faculty members can participate in collaborative projects we can’t even fathom at this point that will provide life-saving human-centered solutions for the betterment of the world.”

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