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        Graduate Programs, Students

        PEMBA students provided with a better understanding of British healthcare system

        April 16, 2021 By Joe McAdory

        All News



        “Sometimes, the only system we know is what we’ve come to learn and the way we do things is just the way we do things. It’s not until you delve deep into another country’s healthcare system do you find where we lack.”  — Dr. Marcus L. Williams, cardiologist and second-year student in Auburn's Physicians Executive MBA Program

        The Harbert College is dedicated to providing relevant, forward-looking and engaging curricula, and high-impact experiential learning opportunities.

        Why is it important to study foreign healthcare systems? To improve our own, Kim Kuerten, Executive Director of Harbert College’s Graduate Executive Programs, believes.

        “Business and healthcare, in many ways, share a global perspective,” she said. “You can’t understand business if you don’t understand the context. The U.S. has had a unique healthcare system from the beginning in the ways it is financed and delivered. If you grow up in that -- which all of our physicians have -- that’s the only context you understand.”

        execStudents in Auburn’s Physicians Executive MBA (PEMBA) program have the opportunity to study healthcare systems on a global scale. A component of the program’s curriculum – Comparative Health Systems – utilizes an international experience, where students witness foreign healthcare systems first-hand and learn from professional peers and administrators overseas.

        COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s planned international experience to London, where students were to learn first-hand from British hospital administrators and peer physicians.

        This spring, however, Harbert College graduate programs administrators re-envisioned the international experience and pivoted to a domestic location, adhering to COVID-19 protocols. Instead of meeting face-to-face, lectures and discussions were held March 22-26 via Zoom, where we brought London to them.

        There, students learned which elements of the United Kingdom’s healthcare system might be beneficial to ours, its liabilities, how the nation’s history of economics, values and culture have played a role in healthcare development, and much more.

        The PEMBA cohort had the opportunity to hear from giants in England’s healthcare industry, including Dr. Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund, leading on projects for England’s National Health Service (NHS) funding, productivity and performance; Dr. Jonathan Makanjuola, Consultant Urologist and lead clinician for bladder cancer at King’s College Hospital in London; Dr. Ivan Camphor, Senior Partner at Healtherlands Medical Center in Wirrel, U.K.; Dr. Claire Fuller, Senior Responsible Officer for the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System; and Steve Rempel, SVP and International Chief Information Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.


        PEMBA students met with British healthcare administrators and physicians via Zoom, but in a classroom setting during the March 22-26 conference.

        Lectures included, but were not limited to, “Operational and Strategic Issues Facing the English,” “Leadership and Transformation in the National Health Service,” “Politics of the National Health Service,” and “Pharmaceuticals in the UK.”

        Dr. Rene’ Mceldowney, who serves as the Comparative Healthcare Systems course director, also finds value in studying another healthcare system firsthand.

        “There is an exchange of perspectives and ideas,” she said. “While this might not have been the case 10 or 15 years earlier, now almost every industrialized nation’s healthcare system is experiencing similar pressures – greater efficiency, costs, greater access, improved outcomes, and an aging population.

        “We have an opportunity to separate fact from fiction when it comes to other health systems. Physicians hear a lot about universal healthcare, but unfortunately, a great deal of it is wrong or incomplete. In other words, when the U.S. cardiologist, intensivist, or radiologist interacts one-on-one with his or her German, British, or Norwegian counterpart, that is when real understanding and learning takes place.”

        Dr. Marcus L. Williams, a cardiologist at West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange who will graduate from the program in May, said learning from British administrators and physicians gave him “a better understanding of the deficiencies we have here at home.”

        “Sometimes, the only system we know is what we’ve come to learn and the way we do things is just the way we do things,” he said. “It’s not until you delve deep into another country’s healthcare system do you find where we lack.”

        Williams praised Harbert College graduate programs administrators for creating an avenue for this international experience, despite the odds.

        “Given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we were very grateful the way this trip was handled and delivered,” Williams added. “It was well-organized, the lectures were great, we could understand them well and view the presenters’ slides. We understood the lectures just as if we were in London, though we didn’t have boots on the ground.”