MIT Sloan Health Systems Initiative

Medicine for Managers gives students an edge in the biomedical industry

Richard J. Cohen, Whitaker Professor in Biomedical Engineering, MIT

Richard J. Cohen, Whitaker Professor in Biomedical Engineering, MIT

Dr. Richard Cohen has a long history with MIT. He received both his PhD in physics and MD through the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program in 1976. After clinical training, he joined the MIT faculty in 1979.  In 2013, Dr. Cohen, along with cofounders Professors Retsef Levi and Ernst Berndt, developed the MIT Healthcare Certificate Program. The following year he taught his new course Medicine for Managers and Entrepreneurs for the first time. This class is one of three required courses for the certificate. There’s nothing else like it taught at MIT or indeed, Dr. Cohen believes, perhaps not anywhere else.

The concept behind the course is to prepare students with the medical knowledge they will need to effectively run or start up a company in the biomedical space. By learning about biomedical science and clinical medicine within a business context, students become comfortable reading clinical and scientific papers and asking experts probing questions. Dr. Cohen believes not only that students gain needed industry credibility, but also the discernment to judge business opportunities and evaluate experts’ opinions.Cohen brings in speakers who are clinicians, scientists, investors and CEOs. Most class sessions focus on the interface of clinical medicine and a company trying to develop a product in the same area. Both real-world perspectives give students the opportunity to think about how a clinical need may become a viable business idea.

Dr. Richard Mitchell visits Medicine For Managers, Spring 2017

During one class session, pathologists bring in preserved organs for the students to examine. Cohen says that this activity generated a surge of social media comments the first year and continues to be very popular. It is unlikely there is another business school class where students have this experience!

For the final project, each student must describe a technology and how they would build a biomedical business based on it.

Word of Cohen’s class has traveled beyond US borders. Recently, Dr. Cohen was contacted by a biomedical specialist from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. He had heard of the course from enthusiastic graduates and wants to reproduce it in the EU, launching next fall. At that point, Cohen will be able to say that there is at least one comparable course in existence.