Spotlight on industrial engineers in health care 

Susan Hawkins
Vice President, Planning and Performance Improvement
Henry Ford Health System

Sue entered the engineering school at the University of Michigan with no idea what "engineering" meant, except that it would be a good start for people like her who are good at math and science. Exposure to industrial engineering and health care applications in college sparked her interest and eventually led her to a successful career.

How did it start? About halfway through her sophomore year at the University of Michigan, Sue attended a presentation on industrial engineering from one of the professors during the typical program held to assist students in selecting a specific engineering discipline. The "people" aspect of industrial engineering sounded great, so Sue began taking classes in that program. During her junior year she took a class that was taught by Walt Hancock on hospital operations engineering.

"The course provided a broad overview of how industrial engineers can apply their techniques and skills to improve staffing, decrease wait times, and ultimately help caregivers provide better, more efficient care," Sue says. “I was hooked.”

Sue continued taking additional courses focusing on health care before graduating. These courses included an advanced hospital operations course within the engineering curriculum and an introductory graduate level course in the School of Public Health. She gained additional exposure to health care when she worked on a project at the University of Michigan Hospitals during her senior design course.

Sue interviewed with both health care and non-health care companies during on-campus recruiting during her senior year. "My search narrowed to health care applications pretty quickly." She also reached out to health systems that were not recruiting on campus by sending them resumes. Her efforts paid off, and she received three excellent offers to choose from. "I've been in health care ever since - I find it fascinating, and I've never looked back!"