When she discovered the medical device industry, Erin Anderson realized she’d found her professional sweet spot. The fast-paced medical device industry integrated both health care and business, equal parts relationship-building and innovation. And since she happened to have a self-designed degree that reflected these competencies, finding a role in the medical device world was a natural fit for Erin.
The degree she designed for herself through the Health and Wellbeing Sciences major (formerly known as the Health and Wellness track within the Inter-College Program) allowed Erin to draw from courses that piqued her interest. Working closely with her advisor, Amy, she customized an individualized degree that included applied business classes like project management, hard sciences like physiology and chemistry, and business classes from the Carlson School. The winter before Erin graduated in the spring of 2017, she started networking and looking for a job where she could apply her skills.
“I reached out to a friend’s father who had recently launched a small med-tech startup called Inspire Medical Systems,” Erin says. “I told him I was interested in potentially getting into the medical device industry and wanted to set up some informational interviews with people in his company.”
Those informational interviews resulted in a job offer as a business manager at the company, which makes an implantable device to help sleep apnea patients. For those who can’t tolerate a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) gadget, which can be intimidating with its mask, straps, and tubes, the device Erin’s company manufactures offers an alternative. Built from similar technology as a pacemaker, the device delivers the slightest stimulation to the tongue to ensure patients don’t experience an obstructed airway while they sleep. The device, which is only on at night, is controlled by the patient through a handheld remote that is programmed by the physician.
Captivated by the technology and the opportunity to work in health care, improving people’s lives while engaging in work where no day is the same, Erin dove headfirst into the job. She was quickly promoted into a role as marketing associate, and today she’s based in Denver working as a field clinical representative, covering territory in Colorado and Wyoming.
Her job requires her to be like a third arm for territory managers, helping to work with patients and physicians as devices are implanted. Erin assists with training medical staff and surgeons about the medical device, including educating about care pathways for patients with new implants and coaching physicians through making programming changes to ensure good patient outcomes with the therapy.
“I really love the medical device world. It's super rewarding,” Erin says. “Every day is different in the field, which I really like. It keeps me engaged. I’m super thankful for the opportunity and I’m trying to soak it all in. It's exactly where I want to be.”
“Ultimately, I'm so glad that I found the [Health and Wellbeing Sciences] major. I tell a lot of people about it. It's a great way for you to make your college experience your own.”
As she reflects on her individualized degree and how it set her up for the professional success she’s experiencing now, Erin says the multidisciplinary nature of her degree prepared her for the day-to-day challenges working in the medical device industry. Knowing about anatomy and physiology comes into play when she has conversations with doctors or spends time in the operating room, and her business coursework is activated when she’s spreading awareness about her company’s product. Myriad soft skills, like communications and project management, enable her to swiftly get through a day’s workload. “My degree gave me good exposure to many relevant subjects and it set me up for success,” she says.
In fact, she admits that she wishes she’d found the degree sooner. “Ultimately, I'm so glad that I found the [Health and Wellbeing Sciences] major. I tell a lot of people about it. It's a great way for you to make your college experience your own.”
Erin plans to stay in her role as a field representative for the foreseeable future. The company has tripled in size since she started, and she’s energized by the momentum. Looking ahead, Erin anticipates staying in the medical device industry for a long time, carving out a niche for herself where innovation, health care, and science intersect.