Julia Kotkin knows her future will be in the health field. But like for many students, finding that perfect career path as a college undergraduate is often easier said than done. A new course at FGCU has allowed Kotkin, a Florida Gulf Coast University junior majoring in clinical laboratory science, to explore her options by going beyond the classroom and learning directly from industry experts.
“I have been very science based with all of my classes, and I wanted to branch out,” she said. “When this class was offered, I knew I had to jump on it to see what I could gain.”
Kotkin is one of 25 students who has completed the first semester of a new medical device industry course offered through Marieb College of Health & Human Services. The medical device industry aims to help physicians by developing cutting-edge technology or instruments to diagnose, treat or prevent various medical conditions. One of the industry’s leading companies, Arthrex Inc., is located in Southwest Florida.
In an innovative partnership, FGCU and Arthrex are familiarizing students with the fundamentals of the medical device industry and helping them master the skills needed to start a career in the business.
“As part of our core value of ‘Making People Better,’ Arthrex is committed to supporting unique educational experiences that strengthen our communities,” said Senior Director of Corporate Communications Dennis O’Keefe. “We are pleased to further our valued partnership with FGCU through this program and to give students a strong knowledge base of the medical device industry and the various career opportunities we offer.”
Headquartered in Naples, Arthrex is a medical device company that leads the industry in product development and medical education in orthopedics. Arthrex currently employs more than 110 FGCU graduates. Shawn Felton, acting co-dean of Marieb College, said this strategic partnership creates a pipeline of qualified candidates for employment in Southwest Florida.
“We are really taking a 30,000-foot view of the medical device industry,” said Felton. “They are getting such a foundation here that’s truly going to separate our graduates from others who have never been a part of this class.”
The course is designed to take students out of the classroom and connect them directly to the health industry. Throughout the semester, students explore different areas within Arthrex like the healthcare marketplace, product development and management and the needs of healthcare and medical providers.
“It’s important for our faculty to be connected to an organization this innovative, creative and influential,” said FGCU President Mike Martin. “It is also important for our community to demonstrate a partnership between the region’s university and one of the biggest employers and economic engines in the area.”
Each week, guest speakers from various departments at Arthrex give students an inside look at the industry and offer them an industry perspective into the healthcare field.
“That connection to the real world is so important to bring into the classroom,” explained Ashley Greulich, an FGCU junior majoring in psychology with a neuroscience concentration. “I love the diversity. Everyone who has come from every department within Arthrex, you can tell they love what they do and wake up with a smile.”
In November, the class traveled to Arthrex to hear from CEO Reinhold Schmieding. They learned how Arthrex was built and the meaning behind Arthrex’s mission statement, “Helping Surgeons Treat Their Patients Better.” Students were also able to have a question-and-answer session with Schmieding, a highlight of Greulich’s semester.
“My friends and I were actually very nervous meeting a CEO of such a successful company,” she said. “But just sitting there and listening to him speak, we realized he was just like one of us. He was able to connect with us on every level.”
Another goal of the class is for students to understand what the medical device industry is seeking in potential employees with respect to competencies, or particular skills a company has decided are desirable for potential employees to have. These competencies were designed by FGCU faculty, Arthrex leadership and other industry experts.
“The students are really excited to see the opportunities available to them. The medical device industry is now an option for them, one that they may not have even thought about before. Now they see that this is an industry they can work for,” said Aysegul Timur, vice president and vice provost, strategy and program innovation at FGCU.
The course also goes one step beyond the end of the semester. After successfully completing the class, students have the option to earn a digital badge in Fundamentals of Medical Device Industry. This certification allows students to stand out to employers and target specific opportunities or career paths. Three students from last semester’s class earned their badges. According to LinkedIn, people with digital credentials get viewed six times more often than those without during the employment application process.
“It’s more than a badge on a transcript or a LinkedIn profile. When a student earns a badge, you can see the competencies they have mastered. We are really trying to provide our students an opportunity that gives them a step up, and have a better chance of being employed at Arthrex,” said Felton.