Education - Page 5 - Changing health care

- Page 5
Changing health care
New career paths emerge in established and new industries

By Emily Parks, Contributing Writer

The type of careers in health care that first come to mind often revolve around nursing or medicine. However, there are degree programs offered in the fields of pharmacometrics, health information technology and even massage that allow its graduates to serve as an important member of a health care team.

Pharmacometrics plays a key part in the areas of drug development and drug regulation. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines pharmacometrics as an emerging science that quantifies drug, disease and trial information to aid efficient drug development and/or regulatory decisions. The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy offers an online Master of Science in pharmacometrics in an effort to provide technical knowledge together with the critical business skills to ensure their students will be successful in the pharmaceutical sector.

Joga Gobburu, Ph.D., M.B.A., F.C.P., director of the Center for Translational Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy emphasizes three essential qualities for a pharmacometrician to be successful in their field. “First, they must have the technical knowledge,” he says. “Second, however, these techniques are only as good as our understanding of the business environment. Hence, we teach drug development and regulatory practices. Lastly, they must be able to communicate complex information to those who may not have your technical background. Our program specifically targets these three areas in the curriculum.”

Toward the end of the program, students take PHAR 758: Special Topics, which is a research project selected from a set of pre-defined projects provided by the Center for Translational Medicine at the School. He adds “this topic provides the student an opportunity to take their didactic experience and apply it to a real project, which can then be published in scientific journals or communicated at international conferences.”

Once considered to be an indulgence at the spa, massage therapy now plays a key role in integrative health care. Last spring, the Community College of Baltimore County began offering its students the opportunity to earn a specialty certificate in massage therapy for integrative health care through a partnership with the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). Within the certification program, which is inclusive of earning an associate degree, students will master massage techniques, proper patient bolstering and movement, safety and sanitation practices, medication knowledge, HIPAA laws and more. Plus, students have an opportunity to collaborate with health care professionals within a medical facility. CCBC is one of only two colleges nationally to offer this certification.

This specialty certification provides an advantage to massage therapists who want to work in a health care setting, says Robin Anderson, M.Ed., LMT, B.C.T.M.B., C.E.A.S., director of the massage therapy program at CCBC. “These students with this specialty certification have training above and beyond entry level training,” she says. “Our students experience being a member of a patient’s health care team with medical professionals at oncology centers, pain management centers or in the area of palliative care.”

Last year, the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies health care organizations such as hospitals, announced hospitals must offer non-pharmacologic and non-opioid solutions for pain management. “Research has shown that massage therapy is proven to be most effective for chronic musculoskeletal pain, such as sciatic or low back pain,”Anderson says. “It is also effective for post-surgical and cancer related pain in an effort to reduce the need to take drugs like Percocet or OxyContin.”

The students also have a treatment role during their clinical experiences at area oncology centers and palliative care facilities, such as providing massage therapy as a patient receives chemotherapy. The type of massage will depend on the physician order, the preferences of the client, where the port is located, and where they are experiencing pain. Currently, students complete rotations with Gilchrist Hospice Center and MedStar Franklin Square in their oncology  center. Anderson recounts a chemotherapy patient who was afraid to be touched, as she had been poked and prodded so many times. “That client received a scalp massage, which helped her calm down and de-stress,” she says.“ After providing massage, we noticed it helped her with pain issues and side effects.”

Massage therapy is also beneficial for palliative care. “These are people who have not been touched much at all, due to their current situation with their health,” she says. “Having that human therapeutic touch is such a godsend. It is centered on pain management, which allows terminally ill patients to be able to cope with their condition more comfortably.”

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County recently launched a master’s in health information technology (IT) that combines strategy, policy and management courses with hands-on technical courses to prepare students for careers in clinical care informatics, research and clinical trial informatics, managed care and other fields. Rose Yesha, Ph.D., graduate program director of the health IT program at UMBC, describes how a graduate of the program would play a role in the managed care sector. “One of our students now works for the Social Security Administration as a project manager completing data entry for different healthcare organizations,” she says. “Our students also work in the area of health care security and privacy, by learning how to work with different organizations, such as insurance companies and hospitals, to make sure all the information is secure.”

Students of the program also may come from a patient care background and are looking to focus on working with electronic health care records, health care data entry, or within health care systems such as EPIC and CRISP. Toward the end of the program, students complete their capstone project. The capstone project is similar to a mini-thesis, where the students have an opportunity to use advanced methodology and data analytics to show how health IT provides a vital role in resolving pertinent health care issues such as disease, security and public health.

Beza Mamo found the master’s in health IT degree program at UMBC to be a challenging but doable fit into her professional work schedule. Her capstone project utilized skills learned in her data analytics class to analyze data to form a conclusion in terms of which students were more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs on college campuses. Her future career plans include taking on more of a project management role in health IT programs. “I’m currently being considered on a proposal in Ethiopia to create more robust electronic communication within different sectors of Ethiopia,” she says. “I’m looking forward to taking on more projects that have more of a health IT focus.” •