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When healthcare gets personal

Marie Schulte-Bockum, SSH’17, had embraced the spirit of experiential learning before enrolling at Northeastern. After graduating high school, she held internships in London and Taiwan, where she gained crucial experience before heading to college. Now at Northeastern, she is applying that knowledge to her current co-op position at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Mass.

Schulte-Bockum is part of IHI’s new business development team, which is responsible for overseeing burgeoning business partnerships. She’s also involved in the pilot for a new course on end-of-life care in its Open School program, which includes more than 20 free classes on six topics including leadership, patient safety, and quality improvement.

“IHI’s three aims are to lower costs, improve quality, and improve population health,” explained Schulte-Bockum, a combined major in international affairs and economics. “It sounds simple, but improving care and lowering cost at the same time are sometimes mutually exclusive goals that we spend years finding creative solutions for.”

Schulte-Bockum connected with IHI in part because of her sister’s life-saving experience in Germany’s universal healthcare system. Luisa Schulte-Bockum was born with a heart defect wherein the pulmonary vein and the aorta were switched, causing her heart to receive deoxygenated blood. Her family lived in Hamburg at the time and the closest specialist capable of dealing with a newborn baby with this condition was in Berlin. Without universal health coverage, they would not have been able to afford the helicopter flight there, where Luisa underwent emergency surgery. Partly thanks to the heart surgery and care she received as a newborn, Luisa is now a varsity athlete at Cornell University.

“At IHI we hear inspirational stories like this every day. But we also hear about overly expensive procedures and fatal errors. Most of these mistakes result from broken systems, not errors made by physicians,” Schulte-Bockum said. “In Europe, we have public health care, see it as the status quo, and rely on it. I’m inspired by this model to bring affordable and reliable healthcare to everyone.”

Schulte-Bockum is but one of 15 Northeastern students working on co-op at IHI to improve global healthcare policies. “The staff here at IHI is inspirational and comes from all over the world,” she said. “There are multiple different accents in the office and during phone calls, but everyone speaks the same language of better healthcare.”

Last month, she told the Twitterverse why co-op has transformed her life using the hashtag #iheartcoop. “@Northeastern I #iheartcoop at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (#IHI) because business meetings are about saving lives. #FeelsGood,” she tweeted.