Healthcare supply chain offers opportunities for Quinlan alumni
By Mike Hewitt, PhD
Director, MS in Supply Chain Management Program
When people think about supply chain management, they typically think about manufacturing. Yet eight Quinlan alumni are learning that healthcare supply chain management can be an exciting as well as a personally and professionally rewarding industry to work in. All eight work in the UChicago Medicine supply chain department.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit these alumni to learn about their experiences. They serve in a variety of roles:
- Hussam Bachour (MBA ’16, MSSCM ’16), Manager of Supply Chain Systems
- Mark Anway (MBA ’17), Dave Spence (MBA ’17), and Chloe Greene (BBA ’17) are in sourcing.
- Maria Hernandez (BBA ’18, MSBDA ’19), Will Laveck (BBA ’19), and Grace Sperr (BBA ’19) are business systems analysts. Read Grace’s story →
- Christina Villarreal (BBA ’19) is in the two-year supply chain resident rotational program.
A growing supply chain department
The UChicago Medicine supply chain department started in the early 2010s and now employs more than 130 people. Dave helped lead the Rambler charge as he was one of the first Quinlan graduates to work there.
“It gets better each year,” he says. “The number of employees has grown, and the responsibilities given the sourcing team have grown as well.”
During our discussion, Mark highlighted the caliber of the supply chain management team at UChicago Medicine, as well how exciting it can be to work where transformational medical practices are developed and practiced.
Christina summed up working there quite succinctly, saying “I am happy to have the opportunity to be here and do what I love.”
UChicago Medicine also provides our Quinlan alumni with the opportunity to continue to be “people for others.” Chloe chairs a committee tasked with finding ways the department can commit time and resources to giving back to the community and patients services. As an example, she recently organized a toy drive for a Comer Children’s Hospital patient diagnosed with a cancerous tumor called medulloblastoma.
Challenges in healthcare supply chain
During our discussion, everyone highlighted that there are challenges to effective supply chain management that are unique to healthcare. These challenges are related both to what is considered when making decisions, as well as how those decisions are made. As Hussam put it, “The definition of the customer is not like other industries. In healthcare, the customer is a vulnerable human being.”
The whole team echoed the need to understand that patient experience, health, and safety (and not costs) are the main drivers of decision-making. Maria summarized this sentiment well: “Whatever you are doing is having an impact on someone else’s life.”
At the same time, the whole team identified that the focus on the patient — instead of just costs — made their jobs particularly rewarding. As Dave put it, “You see how your work directly impacts the patient experience.”
Regarding how decisions are made, both Dave and Mark highlighted one major difference between sourcing at UChicago Medicine and their previous positions in manufacturing. As Mark put it, “In manufacturing, the end user of a product chosen by the sourcing team has much less pull than a physician does in a hospital.”
Grace followed with “You have to be able to deal with a doctor saying ‘no.’” According to Mark, succeeding in sourcing in a healthcare environment is like inside sales, as you “need to ‘sell’ to a healthcare provider who may not be solely focused on cost.” Chloe echoed that sentiment, highlighting that one key to success is being able to leverage a business background in a context where everyone is speaking in a clinical language.
Hussam pivoted towards a different challenge. Specifically, that there can be difficulties in implementing supply chain decisions in a hospital system as it is not a supply chain organization. He contrasted a hospital system with organizations like Amazon or UPS, wherein supply chain decisions may be easier to get implemented because supply chain management is their core focus.
Regardless, it was clear from my interactions with the team that they enjoy taking on these challenges and are passionate about the differences they are making at UChicago Medicine.
Healthcare supply chain courses
For many years at Quinlan, one of our faculty, Dr. John Nicholas, has taught courses in Lean production principles wherein he focuses on the application of those principles to healthcare settings. Many of the team at UChicago Medicine highlighted the importance of that class to their careers.
Seeing our alumni succeed at UChicago Medicine has inspired us to increase that focus on healthcare. Specifically, in Fall 2020 we will be offering for the first time an undergraduate course in healthcare supply chain management. Hussam and Dave are both helping develop the course.
At Quinlan, we love to see our alumni go on to great success and are particularly pleased when they come back and help us prepare the next generation of supply chain management leaders. Likewise, we are very excited to expand our healthcare-focused educational offerings.