Right Now at Penn, the next generation of health-care leaders is breaking new ground with an innovative certificate program that explores the intersection of medicine, business, and technology.

“The medical curriculum is fantastic for training students to be excellent clinicians, but there are so many other ways that medical professionals can use their skills to impact the structure of health care―to innovate, to change the way the field works,” said Dan O’Connor, M’16.

In an attempt to fill what they perceived to be a void in the medical curriculum, Dan and fellow Penn Medicine students Diane Dao, C’11, M’16, and Jacqueline Soegaard, M’16, founded the Healthcare Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Interest Group and Certificate Program (H-MET).

“Traditionally, we think about pathophysiology, about clinical disease, about how we manage clinical disease―that is and always will be the foundation for medicine. But to build the health-care leaders of the future, we need to rethink how we structure health education,” said Dao, Founder and H-MET Board Member.

“I truly think the H-MET program is going to have the opportunity to transform the face of the health-care system."
―Daniel “Justin” Larkin, M’17

H-MET aims to equip future health professionals with the skills and knowledge to impact an evolving health-care system. The program introduces this interdisciplinary medical education by facilitating skill development; providing an educational framework including coursework, a curriculum-driven lecture series, and a capstone project for experience; and promoting mentorship and joint ventures among students, faculty, alumni, and the health-care industry. 

“H-MET allows medical students to pursue skills and knowledge in H-MET fieldsmanagement, entrepreneurship, and technologyfrom within their medical school curriculum,” said Founder and H-MET Board Member Soegaard. “It does so by taking advantage of the resources that are already in place at an institution like Penn and at many other institutions and Universities.”

The program’s innovative approach is breaking new ground in medical education. “One of the things that gets me really excited about the program is not only is the goal itself innovative, but their whole approach is innovative,” said Roderick “Rod” Wong, M’03. “They’re incorporating newer education tools like TED-like talks, programming challenges, hackathons, and public debates.”

A generous gift from Dr. Wong―the Roderick T. Wong, M’03, Term Fund for Healthcare Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology―has helped the program evolve from a coffee shop epiphany, to a special interest group, to a funded certificate program. Dr. Wong, H-MET’s founders, and the current H-MET board see the program evolving well beyond the 50 students currently enrolled, potentially revolutionizing medical education and ultimately impacting health care around the nation and the world.

“I envision this program really becoming the example for a lot of other medical schools in the country to understand that health-care management, entrepreneurship, and technology is really the future of health care and needs to be integrated more significantly in medical education,” said H-MET Board Member Julio “J.C.” Lopez, M’17. “We’ve spoken to other students at other medical schools, and they’re facing similar issues. We want to be on the forefront of it, and we want to kind of standardize it and we want to say that this is what really prepares students to be future clinician leaders in health care.”

"The ideas underlying H-MET are some of the most important ideas for changing health care, and that’s getting clinicians to engage in building new improvement to our health-care system,” said H-MET Board Member John Mitchell “Mitt” Coats, M’17. “There are a lot of really interesting ways that we can use technology to be healthier and to take care of each other better.” 

Citing H-MET’s participation in the Fall 2014 PennApps, a premier student-run hackathon that’s been established at Penn for five years, Coats further emphasized the necessity of closing the gap in technology and medicine. “The hackathon model is that people build great stuff using technology they understand for problems they want solved. The problem in health care is that patients don’t understand everything, clinicians don’t understand everything, payers don’t understand everything; when you can start getting those parties interested in technology and building new things with it, we’ll start to see improvements. For instance, what would an EMR [electronic medical record] system look like if it were built by clinicians for patients?”

“I truly think the H-MET program is going to have the opportunity to transform the face of the health-care system,” said Daniel “Justin” Larkin, M’17, H-MET Board Member. “Most doctors are going to have to be leaders and involved in health-care innovation, yet there’s no opportunity to formally learn how to be an innovator in that space. Physicians are very driven and intelligent people, but we’re not living up to our potential as innovators in the health-care system. As we’ve developed this program, we’ve thought of ways we can enable people through learning opportunities but also through these experiential components. I’d love to see people empowered and activated to transform the health-care system. If we can enable even just a dialogue to start in other environments, in the United States or worldwide, then we can really affect change.”

For more information on H-MET, watch the video.