When Kelly Szaniawski arrived at Northeastern in 2015, her plan was to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor.
Her career path took an interesting turn the following year, when she joined Northeastern’s business professional fraternity and soon discovered that she wanted to approach healthcare from a different perspective.
“I realized that I have a passion for healthcare, but the mindset of a business person,” she said.
Today, as a fourth-year student at Bouvé, she is majoring in health science with a minor in business analytics. She plans to combine the two so that she can use her data analytics skills to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.
“I wanted to know how the business of healthcare works so I can use data analytics to improve healthcare systems as a whole,” she said.
Szaniawski’s evolution illustrates the value of pursuing a healthcare degree at a large university, where you can shift your original career plans based on your experiences and pursue your goals using a variety of disciplines.
Not long after joining the business fraternity, Szaniawski spent her first co-op working as a physical therapy aide at the Cambridge Health Alliance. Although she enjoyed working interacting with patients, she realized that she didn’t want to devote her career to direct care. Maybe med school wasn’t for her after all.
For her second co-op, Szaniawski is a process improvement analyst at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, helping to improve the efficiency—and therefore the effectiveness—of healthcare delivery.
“Quality healthcare involves more than just the efficient delivery of meds,” she said. “A patient is directly affected by the entire administration of the health organization. You have to analyze each part of the process because the system itself affects the quality of care.”
Szaniawski’s cross-disciplinary major also sparked her interest in social enterprise—an innovative form of social action that uses small, sustainable businesses to help disadvantaged communities lift themselves out of poverty. She took a course through the university’s Social Enterprise Institute (SEI), joined its student organization, and signed up for an Alternative Spring Break to the Dominican Republic.
While there, she worked with Haitian refugees confined to a “batey,” a crowded community built of scrap metal and cardboard, where the people survive on an average weekly income of $41, according to Project Esperanza. The Northeastern students surveyed villagers about microfinance, taught a class on the water cycle, and helped build a greenhouse to improve food production.
When she returned, Szaniawski took on a leadership position in Alpha Kappa Psi and was also chosen as co-president of the Social Enterprise Institute’s student organization.
“I’m hoping to bring a health-based perspective into SEI,” she said.
This kind of cross-disciplinary approach is essential to addressing the issue of poverty, according to SEI founder and business professor Dennis Shaughnessy.
“Public health and social enterprise share the same outlook on the world,” he said, adding that Szanianwski was chosen for a leadership role because of her excellent academic performance and dedication to community service.
Once she completes her co-op at Dana-Farber, Szaniawski plans to use her final semester of coursework to expand her technology skills with courses in data mining, programming, and management information systems.
“So many systems depend on one another that there’s a space between traditional healthcare careers that need more attention,” he said. “Understanding these overlapping systems is a key component to achieving healthcare equity.”