Sixteen graduate students from three different programs—the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and MBA/Health—traveled to London on a Healthcare Travel Seminar for a firsthand look at one of the leading healthcare systems in the world.

While these students benefit from curricula that are integrated with Boston’s renowned healthcare delivery organizations, modern healthcare is becoming a more global enterprise, and building knowledge and practical expertise through real-world experience in this context is important for career success. Professor Rick Gregg, one of the seminar’s co-leaders, noted that, “Getting outside the classroom and into the field in London enables students to learn about and assess a very different approach to healthcare, in a very different culture, than we have in the U.S. From their experiences, the students identify ways to improve healthcare in the U.S.”

After engaging in three classes to prepare for their time in London, for a week in early May, the students listened to presentations by prominent healthcare professionals and visited various healthcare organizations around the city, where they met with administrators, providers, and policy-makers in the field. It was all part of studying the National Health Service (NHS), England’s healthcare system, and comparing its aspects to those of the U.S. healthcare system.

Four people in an office

“It went beyond my expectations,” said Megan Cox, a long-term care team manager and MHA candidate who participated in the seminar. “We not only covered the basics, like the structure of the NHS, but we also had the opportunity to interact with regulatory agencies, healthcare technology specialists, nurses, an executive board, a suburban hospital, and modern, urban hospitals. The level of interaction and dialogue we had with people in the NHS was incredible.”

The seminar was led by Professor Gregg and Professor Amy MacNulty; this was the third time the London trip has been conducted as part of the MHA curriculum.

Brett Berman, who recently completed an internship with the healthcare consulting group NBBJ, chose the travel seminar to get a close-up view of a world-leading health system outside the United States.

“Going on the travel seminar allowed me to get firsthand experience from world-renowned health executives in a health system that is vastly different than what we have here in the United States,” Berman said, alluding to the UK’s free, universal coverage funded through taxes. “I felt it was a great opportunity to see what they do differently and bring those ideas back here to the U.S.”

Hands-On Learning

Over the course of the week, the students pursued an itinerary of visits to major healthcare organizations in and around London, including the University College London Hospital (UCLH), Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Royal Brompton Hospital, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), St Thomas’ Hospital, The Health Foundation, and the Care Quality Commission.

Two people at The Health Foundation

While at UCLH, the students participated in a case study that involved analyzing the volume of patients in the Emergency Department (ED) and the flow from the ED to the wards in the hospital. Hospital staff, led by Deputy Chief Executive Neil Griffiths, described the situation in the ED and gave the group an extensive tour of the facility. Afterward, the students were given an hour to review what they had learned and develop recommendations for the hospital, which they presented to Mr. Griffiths and two of his colleagues.

The students’ recommendations, focusing on improving flow and preregistration for patients, were well received, according to Professor Gregg. For the students, the benefits of the visit were clear as well. Cox appreciated how the visit and case study were directly applicable to her own career. Berman described such firsthand experiences and personal interaction as “invaluable.”

Face-Time with Leaders

Throughout the week, the students met with healthcare executives in a wide array of roles, including Robert Bell, CEO of The Royal Brompton Hospital; Dr. Peter Lachman, CEO of The International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua); Katie Fisher, Chief Executive, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust; Antony Tiernan, Director of Engagement & Communication for the NHS Five Year Forward View, and Dr. Indra Joshi, Clinical Director, HealthTech Women and Clinical Lead for Digital Urgent Care for NHS England.

“Suffolk did an amazing job of putting together the different professionals we met with, each providing a different perspective on the NHS,” Berman continued. “For instance, we got to spend two hours learning from Mark Jennings, who helped design the NHS as it is today. Peter Lachman, a world-renowned executive on healthcare quality and improvement, also made an extremely strong impression. Learning from him was remarkable.”

Extracurricular Activities

The week in London also provided ample opportunities for sightseeing and cultural activities. As the Suffolk group traveled throughout the city, they took time to visit modern attractions, like Harrods department store and the London Eye, as well as significant historic sites.

“I loved the trip to the Tower of London,” said Cox. “I am a history nut and have read a lot of British history, so this was really exciting for me.”

Berman was impressed by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre—a reconstruction of the theater where some of William Shakespeare’s plays were performed more than 400 years ago—describing the open-air structure as “truly amazing.” While there, the group took in a performance of the play Nell Gwynn.

The Globe Theatre

An Opportunity Not to be Missed

Both Cox and Berman enjoyed their seminar experience, and enthusiastically recommend it to students who want to explore London and learn about another country’s healthcare system.

“It is worth every penny and the experience is unmatched,” said Berman. “It is not often one gets the opportunity to meet not only with healthcare executives, but also with subject matter experts who are known around the world.”

For her part, Cox stressed the importance of involvement when taking advantage of such an opportunity. “Be open to meeting people, both your peers and the professionals you’ll meet in the NHS,” she recommended. “Ask questions—there is so much to learn.”

Professor Gregg lauded the students for being explorers who were enthusiastic about expanding their comfort zones and learning how the English deliver healthcare, with high quality and at a much lower cost than in the U.S. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of students. They were always supportive of each other and eager to engage in the deepest possible learning.”