Healthcare Systems Engineering
Optimizing Healthcare

Alumni Spotlight: Phillip Burrell '15, Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP)

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Life After Lehigh HSE


Phillip Burrell was first introduced to Lehigh’s Healthcare Systems Engineering program by a previous Program Director.  Phillip explains, “I had just presented at a conference when he and I had an extensive conversation on the U.S. healthcare system.  He invited me to learn more about Lehigh’s HSE program and its goal in developing healthcare leaders with engineering skillsets.”  Phillip was so impressed with what he learned about the program that he paid a visit from Texas.  His visit confirmed that this was the kind of program that was the perfect fit for him.   


Phillip recommends several classes/professors that particularly influenced him during his time at Lehigh, including Design of Experiment with Professor Eugene Perevalov, Optimization with Professor Luis Zuluaga, Sustainable Systems Design with Professor Keith Gardiner and Healthcare Finances with Professor Stuart Paxton.  Phillip notes the professors’ real-world applications brought to the classroom combined with their passion for the subjects that truly enhanced his experience. “I also can’t overstate the influence of Lehigh graduate students, specifically the camaraderie among the students in the HSE program, both on-campus and enrolled in distance learning (DE). Engaging with students from various backgrounds with different interests in applying this education throughout the healthcare industry made the overall experience very rewarding.”


As a student, Phillip held the position of President of the HSE Club.   In this role, he was able to lead a team that truly wanted to grow its presence in ISE and Lehigh. “As President, I focused efforts between 1) leading integrated health/medical professional workforce and Lehigh student engagements and 2) establishing sustainable practices that could lead to future meaningful healthcare experiences for students and faculty,” he says. “We (the club leaders) took a forward-thinking mindset to the club: Build the foundations necessary to make the club sustainable and scalable in the future.”   


During his second (and final year) in the program, Phillip admits he took a slightly different approach to employment. Instead of spending hours filling out applications to various jobs, he used time he had after work and studying to attend educational events and conferences related to healthcare improvement, engineering in healthcare, healthcare operations management, and healthcare policy. “I focused my efforts on listening to other healthcare professionals in various disciplines. Fortunately, the opportunity I was looking for found me. I applied to the position, interviewed well, and started the opportunity before graduating,” he explains.


Phillip is currently working for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) under the leadership of Andy Carter, President/CEO, Dr. Michael Consuelos, Senior VP for Clinical Integration, and Vice President for Research, Martin Ciccocioppo. HAP is the statewide membership services organization that champions for about 250 Pennsylvania healthcare organizations and the patients and communities they serve in policy development, advocacy, and thought leadership.  “I run the Research Division. My team and I have the responsibility of transforming data into actionable intelligence to develop a comprehensive understanding of how policy impacts healthcare in and around our state. We support our members in improving health and wellness in their communities by examining factors that affect the healthcare landscape in Pennsylvania and by providing thought leadership from multiple viewpoints; examining environments regionally and statewide.”


Phillip credits the HSE program for preparing him for this position.  “I’ve always approached challenges and opportunities with a system’s thinking perspective, but I felt that I had gaps in the necessary KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) to really provide solutions at an optimal level through a sustainable system’s approach. The program provided me the didactics and experience to fill-in those gaps with competencies I need to be a successful healthcare leader.”


Phillip adds that a great opportunity for working professionals is the Distance Education program at Lehigh.  “I was fortunate to start Distance Education and finish on-campus, giving me a well-rounded experience of the program.” Phillip credits the DE program as well-structured, yet flexible for students.  “The faculty work with your schedule to make themselves available, providing tremendous guidance and support. It is a great alternative for well-organized, working professionals looking to advance their careers by gaining new skills relevant to all aspects of health and medicine.”


As far as advice for prospective students, Phillip says, “Apply!  You won’t regret it!”