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The colleges of business administration and medicine announce new partnership with BlueWater Angels Investment Network.

The business of better health

A new public-private partnership aims to stimulate innovation in mid-Michigan

Contact: Ari Harris

​What if you could improve the health of Michigan's people and its economy at the same time? With the right partners around the table, the possibilities for a healthier, wealthier Michigan are just a few innovations away.

This month, Central Michigan University's College of Business Administration and College of Medicine announced a public-private partnership with Michigan-based BlueWater Angels Investment Network. The new Michigan Healthcare Innovation partnership will emphasize entrepreneurship in medicine by fostering educational collaboration and creating new small businesses and jobs within the state.

"Health care is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the economy," Ken Kousky, executive director of BlueWater Angels, said.

"Health and life sciences make up about one-fifth of the current economy and are changing more rapidly than almost any other sector. We want Michigan to be at the forefront of that growth."

Kousky met with Dr. George Kikano, dean of the CMU College of Medicine; Dr. Sethu Reddy, chair of medical disciplines at CMED; Charles Crespy, dean of the CMU College of Business Administration; and Bruce Marble, executive director of the CMU Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship, to build the three-way agreement.

"We're opening the door for collaborations that have never happened before." — Charles Crespy, dean of CMU's College of Business Administration

At its heart, the partnership is about building bridges and increasing collaboration among students in the two colleges. By engaging business experts and leaders, the students can extend their networks and deepen their understanding of trends and challenges facing entrepreneurs.  

"Successful entrepreneurship brings together partners with different kinds of expertise in a way that doesn't always happen in higher education. We're opening the door for collaborations that have never happened before," Crespy said.

Plans include hosting regional health care forums; school networking events; and a series of workshops with local and national leaders in health care, innovation and entrepreneurship. Business students will learn and understand significant issues and challenges in health and medicine, while medical students will build basic business skills and go behind the scenes of starting and running a business, Marble said.

Reddy said plans for the future include a certificate program in business for medical students that may eventually lead to a dual doctor of medicine and master of business administration degree.

Improving patient outcomes

The ultimate goal: a healthier Michigan.

"Innovation in health care has driven many of the transformational changes we've witnessed over the past few decades, including advances in diagnostics, new medications and minimally invasive procedures. This is about fostering innovation in a field that can make a huge difference," Kikano said.

In the spirit of CMU's mission to give back to the community, many medical students are interested in ways they can use their talents to improve the lives of their patients beyond their clinical practice.


Ken Kousky meets with medical students planning to enter the New Venture Competition.

Reddy noted that several medical students have already submitted ideas to CBA's student startup New Venture Competition. In 2018 first-year medical student Tony Sassine won a $1,000 prize for a virtual patient experience company. In 2016, medical students Nicholas Cozzi and Craig Thomas won the competition's $30,000 Best Overall Venture prize for ShareCase, an interactive web-based tool for medical students.

Cozzi, who had earned an MBA before entering medical school, said participating in the competition gave him access to business development concepts he hadn't learned in school.  

"The NVC provided insight into the art of pitching to a skeptical audience on your product, the customer discovery process, and identifying who and what roles are needed on your team. It is my dream that the College of Medicine is represented every year in some capacity," Cozzi said.

A healthier Michigan economy

In addition to providing higher quality health care, these young medical entrepreneurs may be able to provide another valuable commodity: jobs. Small businesses employ nearly half of all workers in the state.

"We're working with startups that want to begin in Michigan and stay in Michigan. Our investors want to see our state thrive," Kousky said.

With tremendous growth in health care employment projected over the next five years, there's reason to be optimistic.

Since the startup companies that begin in the New Venture Competition usually continue to operate in Michigan, the state stands to benefit greatly from the work of these entrepreneurial students.

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