This week, we’re highlighting courses from May Experience – a chance for students to explore topics beyond the typical academic year.
COURSE: Introduction to Biomaterials
INSTRUCTOR: Randy Hutchison, assistant professor of health sciences
DESCRIPTION: Students learn about the myriad opportunities in the medical device field and visit a leading global company in that sector.
Bryce McCormick ’23, a business major, wondered about his career options outside the typical business management, accounting and finance fields. So, he signed up for a MayX that included a trip to a premier medical device company.
This year, for the first time, Introduction to Biomaterials spent two-weeks at Arthrex global headquarters in Naples, Florida. Arthrex develops more than 1,000 new products every year for orthopedic repairs and reconstructions, cardiothoracic surgery and more. The company gave McCormick, and six other students who joined him, a first-hand look at the many opportunities available in the biomedical field, from sales to bioengineering, surgery to operations.
“You can try to create an authentic experience in a college classroom, but it’s nothing like when you go into the practice of the career,” said Randy Hutchison, assistant professor of health sciences, who led the course. Students can see employees in roles they can see themselves in, or, that they can rule out for themselves, which is equally important, Hutchison said.
McCormick, who plays inside linebacker for the Paladins, has seen teammates go into the medical device field. He thought it would be interesting to add medical experience to his sports and business backgrounds. He found Arthrex a little challenging, but, he said, “that made the experience even better because I got to learn about some areas I hadn’t before.”
Furman’s liberal arts education fits perfectly with the Arthrex culture, where people from myriad disciplines work in a multitude of functions to solve problems and perform on a world-class level.
“That’s what we teach students to do so well,” said Susan Ybarra, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Community Health, who helped forge the relationship with Arthrex. “Our students can learn and adapt very quickly because they have this larger repertoire of experiences and coursework and mentors to pull from. They can really excel in an environment like that.”
In fact, several Furman alumni work for the company, including Robert Benedict ’08, group product manager for osteobiologics and vet systems; Gil McSwain ’00, a technology consultant and distal manager; Sarah Lusk ’08, who works in human resources; and Danny Schmieding ’09, a former Paladin golfer and the son of Arthrex president and founder Reinhold Schmieding.
While on the Arhtrex campus, students got to meet with Reinhold Schmieding, visit the company’s manufacturing and distribution facilities and learn about regulatory and other issues a global company handles. They also got to watch surgeons train using Arthrex equipment on cadaver body parts. McCormick watched doctors reconstruct ACLs, an injury he’s seen teammates suffer from.
“I think the main success of the MayX experience with Arthrex is that the students were able to see into the complex, multidisciplinary world of biomedical devices. Furthermore, they felt Furman prepared them to play a role in that world where companies help healthcare providers deliver better outcomes for patients,” Hutchison said.
Arthrex has established ties in the Upstate recently. In 2019, Arthrex opened a manufacturing facility in Anderson County, about 30 miles from Furman. In 2021, the company announced they were expanding the location.
Ybarra hopes to continue working with Arthrex on the MayX course, and possibly other opportunities.
“As we think about community partners, it makes sense to work with a company that is actively involved in improving healthcare outcomes, and one that’s a great fit for our students, like Arthrex is.”