Meet Dr. Jon Hurdelbrink. Dr. Hurdelbrink is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences in the Health Sciences major at Drake. Dr. Hurdelbrink's area of expertise in health economics and policy brings a unique aspect to our Health Sciences program that allows students to learn about healthcare in a holistic way. Whether your career goals will lead you to treating patients every day, or working "behind the scenes" in healthcare, Dr. Hurdelbrink's courses will surely help you have a more well-rounded healthcare education!
Given my background above, you can probably imagine that I don’t exactly treat patients or improve patient heath/well-being in any direct way. Instead, my role is much more ‘behind the scenes’ in that I try to not only help students understand how the healthcare system works from both economic/business and policymaking perspectives but also what could/should change and what those changes should look like. In addition, my background in economics and data analytics also allows me to play a role within the healthcare team through research into what these changes should look like, whether this may be suggestions for policy changes at the federal/state level or more ‘small scale’ changes like quality improvements at local hospitals or clinics. While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hardly the first person you might think of as being part of the ‘health care team,’ you’ll likely come to see that ‘health care’ as a whole consists of so many unique individuals and skillsets that are not only necessary to treat patients everyday but also help to improve things going forward.
When I started as an undergrad at Fairfield, I genuinely had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, let alone what I wanted to major in; I had always enjoyed my math and science courses but didn’t really feel called to those fields, if that makes sense. I ended up taking the intro Econ courses after my sister recommended them to me as ‘real world/practical math’ courses that I’d likely enjoy, and she really couldn’t have been more right. In case you don’t really know what ‘economics’ means, or if you have some vague notion of it having something to do with businesses and taxes, it really seeks to understand why we as individuals make the decisions that we do; you can then ‘scale it up,’ so to speak, to how businesses, healthcare providers, governments, etc. make their respective decisions, and overall I find it to be a really fascinating way to try and understand why the world is the way it is. With health care policy being such an important topic at this time (with the passing of the Affordable Care Act) that I also found fascinating, I knew I wanted to try and not only combine these two interests but also eventually teach; that directly led to me starting my Master’s and Ph.D at the University of New Hampshire directly after graduating since it would allow be to do exactly that.
As cliché as it sounds, I really do love having the opportunity to interact with students from so many different backgrounds and with such varying career goals/interests. By having them in multiple classes throughout their time at Drake, I appreciate simply being able to get to know them over time, see them grow and learn from them as they share their own personal insights, experiences and perspectives.
I chose to teach at Drake because, above all else, I knew that it would allow me to truly get to know and interact with my students; I truly appreciated having the opportunity to schedule meetings with my professors and how they actually knew who I was (and not just one of the 500 students in one of their lectures) when I was in undergrad, and Drake’s size would allow for exactly that. In addition, seeing how driven and impressive the students were, having the opportunity to teach alongside colleagues from wide-ranging backgrounds and being able to teach a wide range of courses within my fields of interest led me to Drake since I don’t think I could have imagined a more ideal/perfect fit.
Overall, I believe Drake’s Health Sciences program does an incredible job at preparing students for their post-graduation plans in whatever form those may take. Through courses that help them to better understand the healthcare system and grow as a future healthcare professional, guaranteed internship/research opportunities that allow them to not only gain first-hand experience in healthcare but also develop practical skills, and constant opportunities to interact /network with both professionals and students from various backgrounds, I feel as though Drake students leave with a greater understanding of what their future career/role truly entails and that this undoubtedly sets them up for success.
If you’re interested in working in any sort of ‘behind the scenes’ type role within healthcare, my main piece of advice would be to try and absorb everything that you can. While I certainly don’t mean for that to sound intimidating as it does, all I mean is that it really helps to learn as much as possible about different providers, fields, occupations, etc. so that you can better understand your role and how best to support them; in other words, by knowing just a little about many different aspects of healthcare, it will undoubtedly allow you to contribute to the overall team much more effectively.