When I told my friends and coworkers that I was starting my first MBA classes on July 17, a Sunday, they thought I was crazy. But that was when the Health Sector Management (HSM) Bootcamp kicked off.

Bootcamp is a requirement for students from any of Fuqua’s MBA programs who wish to earn the HSM Certificate, and the term “bootcamp” is more than appropriate. In the course of a week, we attended over 20 lectures, and networked with professionals from Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, and others. And sometime in between, we found time to complete a final project, consisting of a team assignment and 20-minute presentation.

Diverse Backgrounds

As someone relatively new to the health care industry, Bootcamp got me up to speed on issues of global health care policy. I was able to learn from physicians and other health care professionals—some were Duke faculty, but others were students like me. In a lecture about Medicare policy, one of my classmates raised her hand to share her experience working for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. In the next lecture on global drug pricing, a student chimed in with his experience as a pharmacist in France. There were doctors and nurses from different specialties, and folks with experience working for pharma companies, health care IT companies—you name it.

It’s easy to get intimidated in a classroom full of students who have already had extremely successful health care careers. But, at Fuqua, that diversity is what makes the discussion interesting. Whether you’re a provider, payer, or a patient, the health care sector is one that touches us all. I found that my classmates were just as excited to hear about my graphic design background as I was to hear about their healthcare start up.

Duke Health Sector Management students take part in team-building exercises during the program's "bootcamp" at the Fuqua School of Business.

Alumni Connections

Throughout Bootcamp, we were privileged to hear from alumni at companies from across the health care sector—pharma, biotech, medical device, venture capital, provider, payer, etc. For first-year Daytime MBA students, it was our first opportunity to network with professionals on campus. But more than that, it allowed us to see how what we were learning in class translated into a health sector career. One alumna from BD shared her experience working in emerging markets. Another from Janssen told us how a drug he worked on helped a patient with severe depression.

It was helpful to see the practical application of a Duke MBA, but it also gave us a first glimpse at the recruiting process and the opportunity to meet some fantastic alumni in a low-pressure setting.

Creating a Community

On one of the last nights of Bootcamp, all of the HSM students came to the Winter Garden in the Fox Center for a few hours of team building. We untangled a human knot, built towers out of plastic tubes, and raced against each other in a gyro ring game that I found to be completely impossible. My teams didn’t win, but we had a chance to get to know each other outside of the classroom.

When the rest of my first-year classmates came together on campus a few weeks later for MBA orientation, I was happy to see some familiar faces from Bootcamp. I had already met quite a few members of my section, and two of my Consequential Leadership (CLEAD) teammates are in HSM as well. The rest of my health care classmates are spread out across the other five sections, but we get a chance to catch up on Wednesdays during our HSM seminar. The seminar meets six times over the fall 1 and fall 2 terms and is a requirement for first-year HSM students.

Looking Forward

The HSM certificate is one of the main reasons I chose Fuqua, but I didn’t realize just how quickly the program would move through an exhaustive health care curriculum. I’ve already learned so much from my classmates, professors, and alumni over the course of Bootcamp and Fall Term 1, but I know I have a long way to go.