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Brandon is a healthcare professional who has worked on the payer side for more than 8 years in administering both Medicare and Medicaid in 3 states. In his free time Brandon enjoys traveling with his family and volunteering with area disadvantaged youth.
Take me back to your first year of undergrad, out of all the things you could have done, what made you do UROP?
One of my friends had told me about UROP and they had introduced as “oh you know it’s a good way to get involved with some research but you also get a peer advisor that tell you about what’s going on with this or that?” I didn’t really need any help acclimating to campus but from the standpoint of being able to interact with faculty and other people here at the university and see how the university worked? That’s where UROP did do a great job at. I was coming in knowing I wanted to be pre-Med and I knew I had to do some kind of research while I was at the university, so I said “ohh this is an easy way to do it” but when I got into it I found out that the research is just one of the many benefits to it. I mean there was a whole network of former peer advisors and UROP students - there was the faculty that supported them and the UROP faculty themselves. Those were the kinda big things that drove me here. I liked that the meetings were in the evening, the peer advisor would put on some sort of research forum thing about what’s going on on campus or something that like that. It would kind of put you right on the cutting edge and whatever was going on with that particular subject. You don’t have to wait for it to go to industry, you get to kind of go all around like “so and so is doing cancer research over her” or “they’re trying to do biomedical engineering research over here” so it’s really cool just to see the breadth of research going on here at the university
What do you think you’ve learned from your UROP experience?
There were some tangible things and some intangible things, the tangible things is that I learned how to do the research and different methodologies that your faculty sponsor would each you, those directly translated to my field. I learned a lot of lab techniques in my project, in learning those I could leverage they later on in grad school. There was some intangibles I learned that really didn’t come to the forefront til later to be honest. As a peer advisor and even as student to a certain extent they really tell you “look, this is your project and this is how you fit in the larger project” and it’s so key to understand that especially if you wanna go into like corporate america or a fortune 500 and stuff like that. You have to understand how to be one piece of the puzzle, there’s people that come before you and after you and you have to do your job to keep the flow going and it’s like UROP really taught you that. UROP teaches you to work together and all these sort of intangibles that you don’t immediately think of.
How did your UROP experience shape or inform the next steps you took in your academic and professional journey?
It took down the barrier of cold calling a professor or business leader, or anything like that. It was no longer awkward. As a peer advisor we had to be like “Oh hey, I’m Brandon I’m trying to get you to come and talk to this group of kids” and it’s kind of awkward and weird because you don’t know what type of response you’re going to get. It was important (to learn this skill) for me because I was going to leave medicine and I had to go and find a new career and to give an intro of who you are and what you do is required. I kind of drew on the UROP stuff - “alright, how can I make this cold call to this other person? What can I find out about them and their interest to establish a connection?” I started doing my research on the people I would have to cold call. Having some information on them made it easier for me to establish a connection with them or something? S ot it really took down that barrier, it was “Oh, I’ll send
What advice would you give to a current UROP student?
I would say don’t limit yourself, keep your mind open and embrace the research mentality, regardless of what field your in because things are evolving. All the industrys, all the industries across the board, whether it be cyber-space, blue collar, white collar. Everything is evolving in relation to the internet. IT technology all that stuff is progressing, your ability to do research, to understand what’s being done and to look to for what other people are doing is so important in any industry because you can always advance yourself and you can always add to your skillset. If your UROP peer advisor is bringing in a guest speaker you should ask them “hey, how did you get in touch with this person? If I wanted to find out more information about this what would I do?” because that’s what’s required in the workplace. No one is going to hold your hand, no one is going to tell you need “x” skill to get advanced, but you have to be proactive and you have to know how to look for stuff, what to look for and quickly analyze. I think UROP, between the meetings, you know doing your own project, presenting your own project really gives you start to finish to that. If you could take some of those key things and apply them later on down the line in the workplace it will definitely put you a step ahead. I would really recommend that you take advantage of all of your resources here, there’s a lot more here than what you’re realizing. W eneed to getr this together before its too late. Hurry up and get the dollar and pick up the cash befiore the brinks trucks comes
What got you involved in Blue Cross?
So when I was in undergrad I was always interested in the administration of healthcare and I thought that the best way to impact that was to actually be a physician, to actually be there on the frontline and like - all these other doctors may be mistreating people and stuff but I am going to do this differently, I’m going to learn and I can give quality healthcare to these people who may not be getting otherwise, that’s the idea I came in with and then what I realized was the whole idea of a practice of medicine. All it is is kind of an idea, you’re really not practicing anything. What you’re doing is - you’ll learn how to do different procedures and this and that - and what you is what the insurance companies pay for. And so if the insurance company doesn’t pay for it it doesn’t mean you can’t do it but 99% of the time if no one is going to pay for it you’re not going to do it, so you’re dictated to. You become a very very high tech technician in my view - they’re going to say “hey, come fix this.” I couldn’t get the impact I wanted is what I realized. Going patient by patient or how many you see in a day or whatever, you’re not really going to get that big impact that you want. If you look at like the physician executive and things like that those are really really long paths (in addition to medical school). So what I thought was “I really need to pivot here and get more into the healthcare administration side” and I need to go to the insurance companies and see what’s going on. Are they really as bad as people say or are there some nuances to it that you need to understand?
When I went there I saw that they’re not this sort of greedy insurance company that’s taking all the money and denying stuff. I noticed that the denials were based off of medical research “we did research and we found out that there’s no difference between them staying in the hospital two days or a week” and they would come and say “oh, why would we pay for a week when there’s no difference after two days?” It wasn’t their decision (the insurance company) they read what the doctors wrote and then implemented it into practice. When they kick people out on that third day in the hospital, people say “oh my goodness look what the insurance company did they’re so terrible” but no what they did was based on data, it was based on research. Should there be exceptions sometimes? Yes 100%, but we can’t fall into the talking points and stuff like that. When I realized that I thought “let me do a little bit more research, what is the role of insurance companies?” one is facilitating the payments, but another one is care coordination. All the case managers that call out to people and say “let me make sure you get a follow-up appointment within a week” or “let me make sure you get transportation there and back.” That’s a care coordinator sitting at someone insurance company making phone calls. It doesn’t make the news and not very many people talk about, but it actually does impact the patient’s overall health because it gets them to where they need to go.
What advice do you have for current UROP students?
What I would say is my best advice for juniors and seniors especially, pause. It will be okay, whatever you’re stressed about grad school, a job or the next chapter, pause… assume that you already made it and think about whether or not you will be happy. Assume everything worked out and that you made it and make sure the the answer is yes. Whatever it is, whatever goal you have in mind, assume that you got there and ask yourself if you would be happy. If the answer is “no” it’s not too late to change. Don’t ever feel locked in, that’s never the case. People change careers all the time.
If you could describe UROP in one word what would it be?
Opportunity. UROP is such a big opportunity, but you get out of it what you put in. If all you want out of it is the little afternoon session you do for your research project, you can get it, but if you want more than that? It can take you as far as you want to go.