St. Olaf College | News

Exploring the complexities of global health care from all angles

MussattoLiza350x499Liza Mussatto ’14 recently delivered a presentation on the commercial potential of a new medical technology to a group of professionals from the Mayo Clinic.

The research she presented, which resulted from her participation in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, reflects the latest opportunity Mussatto has had to explore the business side of health care.

During her time at St. Olaf College, Mussatto has examined the complexities of health care from numerous angles — domestically, internationally, sustainably, practically, and economically — through study-abroad programs, independent studies, and immersive internships.

Although she was already considering going into the field when she arrived at St. Olaf, Mussatto’s interests in health care solidified while she was studying abroad in Denmark last spring. Much of her coursework ended up being health-focused, and included a look into the Danish health care system.

She followed her time abroad with a hands-on internship at the Hennepin County Medical Center available through a St. Olaf program developed by Gaylan Rockswold ’62 and his wife, Mary Garnaas Rockswold ’63. There she worked with administrators to develop a health care sustainability report.

The combination of her studies abroad and her time working in one of the state’s premiere trauma hospitals inspired Mussatto to develop a cross-disciplinary independent study into the world of international health.

“My experiences in Denmark got me interested in learning about how countries like Denmark are able to provide good health care to their citizens for a less expensive cost than in the U.S.,” says Mussatto. “It was at Hennepin County Medical Center that I really began to think about medical providers and, more specifically, the role of the physician in the health care provision.”

An interdisciplinary approach
Over the course of the fall semester, Mussatto took an interdisciplinary approach to examining health care. She used an independent study to examine non-U.S. medical providers in Singapore, Japan, Australia, Sweden, and Italy, which enabled her to compare differences in medical provisions between these countries and the U.S.

Though Mussatto majors in economics, she recognized that the complexities of any health care system rely heavily on the individuals and societies involved. Because she aimed to approach health care cross-culturally, she worked between two departments and two academic advisors — Assistant Professor of Economics Ashley Hodgson and Associate Professor of Anthropology Tom Williamson — to ensure that she would understand the depth of the interdisciplinary field.

“With Professor Hodgson, the focus was on facts, figures, and understanding economic reasons for how countries shape systems,” Mussatto says. “With Professor WIlliamson, the focus was on why a country’s system is that way in the first place. It really allowed me to understand the power of the physician in shaping health care systems.”

By determining the contrasts between several developed nations’ health care systems, Mussatto’s study determined that the strengths of the U.S. health care provision largely contribute to its shortcomings.

“The world-class research, training, and medical facilities that the U.S. health care system is renowned for are inextricably connected to our soaring costs and lack of coverage, which in turn leads to unacceptable health outcomes,” Mussatto says. “By looking at the broader context in which medical providers from around the world perform services for the public, I began to understand the environment in which physicians are asked to make choices.”

Putting preparation into practice
Mussatto was able to put her new knowledge of physician needs into practice during her next endeavor: evaluating the commercial potential of discoveries and inventions created by Mayo Clinic physicians and researchers.

“At Hennepin County Medical Center, I was immersed in the hospital environment, which led me to ask many of the questions that I tried to answer during my independent study,” Mussatto says. “Similarly, the project that I worked on during the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program utilized the same skill set of generating questions and searching for answers to a very complex issue.”

These skills will continue be vital to Mussatto after graduation, when she will move to Kansas City to work as a professional services consultant at the Cerner Corporation, a large health care information technology company.

“It’s been important to learn about the industry from an economic perspective, but I feel like the variety of my experiences has been reminiscent of health care itself — so complex, interdisciplinary, and connected to everything,” Mussatto says. “I knew I wanted to do this path since I got here, and, thanks to my advisors and the amazing academic opportunities here, I was able to tailor my education around it.”