A passion to improve lives through their health care
While on stage, Emmanuel “Manny” Houndo, an accomplished violinist, is used to bringing joy to the lives of those who listen to his music.
In the lab, the Penn State student is now participating in a research project aimed at improving the lives of patients through better health care.
Houndo, a junior, is double majoring in health policy and administration and music. From his academic curriculum in the Department of Health Policy and Administration, Houndo got connected with Joel Segel, assistant professor of health policy and administration, last spring. Segel described a research project he was leading and asked Houndo if he wanted to join.
While the effort aims to promote high quality and clinically effective care delivered at the most efficient price point, the heart of this project is the goal to improve people’s lives through their health care.
Recognizing how research could have a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of individuals, Houndo accepted the offer to participate and immediately immersed himself in the work.
The project is focused on developing and implementing innovations in health care delivery that meet the needs of the Penn State employee and beneficiary population who are covered under the University’s health benefits program and who receive care locally in the State College area. It is being supported by a strategic partnership between Penn State Health, the Office of Human Resources, and other collaborators in the College of Health and Human Development.
“Dr. Segel had complete trust in me from the beginning,” Houndo said, “He put me to work right away.”
First, Houndo reviewed literature on the health care strategies of other companies and systems to find out what has been done in the past to help mitigate costs, and to learn what has worked, and what hasn’t.
Houndo’s job then became a “documentation specialist,” as he describes, in which he reviewed documents from past project meetings to determine the goals of each meeting, and what decisions were made at each meeting. He then put those notes and information together in a file to be used in the project.
From there he started attending project meetings and was able to sit in on decisions being made by stakeholders.
Participants include a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians and health services researchers working to produce scientific evidence to inform the broader field, as well as business intelligence to inform how to pursue value added and sustainable innovation that can be awarded in the health care marketplace, and improve the health of patient populations, Houndo said.
“The research experience has involved a great deal of literature review on various programs and models of care that have aimed at accomplishing the basic goals of this project—increasing value for patients and lowering cost for payers,” Houndo said. “In addition, I have also gotten the chance to review internal documents of the project and sit in on meetings where pivotal decisions were made. I’ve been able to gain insight into how decision-making is strategically fostered in big organizations where small choices have great consequences.”
Houndo said he believes this experience will help him be successful after college as he enters the workforce.
“Because of this project, I feel more confident in whatever I encounter after graduation,” he said. “Through this research I’ve learned how decisions are made in the health system, how to read and interpret health literature and how the decision-making process works when it comes to the health care system. I’ve also gained a better understanding of population health. I am very appreciative of what I’ve learned.”
Houndo was able to participate in the research project because of support from the Smith Endowment in the College of Health and Human Development.
Previously, he had spent his summers in Philadelphia, where his parents live. But because of the support he received, he was able to stay on campus this past summer to work on the project.
“Receiving the financial support to get involved with research this summer has been a huge blessing,” Houndo said. “Without it, I would not have had the means to travel back to Penn State and live in University Park to truly immerse myself in the incredible work done here. This opportunity has allowed me to grow my understanding of the health policy field and what research in this domain actually demands. For that, I am tremendously grateful.”
Houndo said he is grateful to receive his education, and participate in research, at a world-renowned institution such as Penn State. Being able to pursue multiple interests, including health policy and administration, and music, has been an enriching experience, he said.