There are many routes to enter the medical innovation landscape and an advanced degree is one option to refine your expertise. Below is a list of some of the options available at the University of Rochester (and other institutions), with a description of the role each might play in your preparation. In addition, we offer some tips on preparation, financing, timing, and selecting your program below.
Medical Technology & Innovation: Here at the University of Rochester, we offer a one-year program with specialized training in medical innovation. This program begins with 8 weeks of guided clinical observations in the operating room or other clinical settings. Workshops on human factors, observational skills, market research, ethnography and design guide the process of needs finding, followed by idea generation, thickening and project selection. During the academic year, students take graduate engineering and biology courses along with specialized coursework in medical innovation covering entrepreneurship, regulatory processes and intellectual property pathways. Following a guided process for project selection, students select one clinical need for brainstorming, design and prototyping during the academic year. Integration with the undergraduate design programs also offers experience in project management and supervision. This program offers exposure to the clinical environment and specialized knowledge and design experience critical to the medical device industry.
TEAM: The TEAM program is jointly offered between the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Simon School of Business to provide students with a combination of advanced engineering coursework and experience in entrepreneurial management. Graduates develop a blend of entrepreneurial, communication and engineering skills that are valuable to employers ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies.
Engineering Management: A number of schools offer combined MS / MBA programs or custom degrees offering training in both advanced engineering and business. Such programs can be appropriate for students interested in project management within the medical device industry.
Medical Management: For students interested in the business of health care delivery, there are MS and/or MBA degrees that provide specialized training in business management in the health industry. Such programs may be pursued part-time and are often designed for those working in the health services sector.
A Masters degree can offer you an opportunity to either refine your expertise in a focused area or to add breadth and versatility to your background. A traditional thesis-based MS can allow you to delve into a specialized area, which can be particularly helpful for R&D positions in industry. Although the thesis project may help you establish your expertise in a particular area, many companies are just as interested in the abilities for research, communication and project-management that you will be able to demonstrate. A thesis masters is typically completed in approximately 2 yrs., and will also offer you a chance to try out a focused research project and consider your interest in a PhD program. In a coursework MS (sometimes referred to as an MEng degree), you have the chance to develop additional skills and acquire greater knowledge in a specialized area of engineering, whether it is Biomedical Engineering, or another Engineering area. Although not always necessary, the MS degree has become a very common entry point into the medical device industry.
In industry, applicants with PhDs are often sought after for positions as Scientists within research divisions, as consultants or as managers of highly technical teams. In addition, on some occasions, a PhD with an entrepreneurial interest may start a new venture to commercialize the technology developed during their dissertation work.
Keep in mind that the PhD does help you develop a specialty, but it also offers training and credibility with the research process and project management, so companies may value the training for more than just the specific topic of research.
If you are interested in medical innovation, in selecting a graduate school for a PhD, you might check for the following:
- Clinical & Translational Science Institute
- Coursework related to Medical Innovation
- Established collaborations with clinician-scientist
- Experience with intellectual property, patents, and startup ventures
The MD/PhD program combines the MD and PhD to allow for training as a clinician-scientist. As more and more doctors become inventors or collaborate with engineers in the development of solutions to problems in medicine, the MD/PhD can be the optimal training for a career in translational medicine.
Law school is another pathway into the medical innovation landscape, particularly for those interested in intellectual property law or regulatory affairs. The combination of an engineering degree with a law degree will prepare you for many positions in industry, at the US Patent Office, or in law firms serving the medical device industry.
For those interested in the business side of medical innovation, the MBA can be critical training for advancing into management and new product development. Although you can start an MBA directly out of your BS degree, many will choose to work for a few years first. Companies will sometimes support part-time pursuit of MBA degrees and many schools offer flexible curricula on evenings and weekends to facilitate part-time study.
Preparation: To apply for most of these graduate programs, you will generally need to take the GRE (or MCAT for medical school or GMAT for Business programs). Schools will expect to see several letters of recommendation, transcripts and a clearly written statement of your interests in the program. Most applications are due in the December or January before the start of the program. Check each program carefully for deadlines and specific application requirements.
Financing: Partial scholarships and/or tuition discounts may be available for the one-year MS programs, and additional funding may be available for students completing research theses. Funding for research in an MS is highly flexible and is usually arranged directly with the faculty member involved. Generally students in the PhD programs are offered both tuition waivers and a modest stipend to cover living expenses.
Timing: In many cases, students continue directly into graduate studies after completing their undergraduate degrees. However, it is also possible to consider an alternative of working for a few years first before returning to school. This approach can allow students to clarify their specific interests for research or advanced education. In some cases, a company will provide financial support for their employees to pursue a graduate degree, especially if it can be completed on a part-time basis. Because the average age for entry into medical school has increased recently, students may want to consider a specialized MS degree first to enhance their maturity and understanding of the clinical environment.
Program Selection: Many factors are critical in the selection of the right program for each student, including geographic preference, cost-of-living, and academic fit. Rather than focus on generic rankings, in choosing an educational program for training in medical innovation, students should consider factors such as:
- Match for research or clinical interest areas
- Interactions with a variety of industry collaborators
- Availability of features such as clinical immersion programs or internships
- A flexible curriculum allowing a blend of engineering and innovation-related coursework
- Opportunities to demonstrate skills in project management
- Active collaborations between research faculty and clinicians