Healthcare and the way that it is conducted have serious implications for the entire population of the world. Thanks to modern healthcare, people are living longer than ever before. But naturally, healthcare is also an ever-evolving industry. Some US colleges can claim to have saved many lives thanks to their health-centered research, education, and leadership. The 30 listed below are leading the way.
Like the healthcare industry itself, healthcare education is a complex field. Because of this, there is no one way to measure the impact of a college on global healthcare and its systems. Therefore, this article looks at a range of ways in which colleges have improved the health of people. This includes how they train students, their technological inventions, their research effectiveness, and more.
This article also examines what colleges in the US are currently doing to improve the future of global healthcare. To identify these activities, this article considers a range of evidence, such as colleges that are securing funding, colleges that are adapting health education/research to coronavirus, and colleges that are collaborating with impactful healthcare organizations.
All of the colleges in this article are strong choices for students who want to study at an institution committed to innovation in healthcare. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges below are right for you. If this is the case, then this article can still be a vital resource. Each college ranking includes a detailed summary of what the college is doing to improve healthcare. These have been included for you to compare and contrast with your own college options. If any of your potential college destinations are approaching healthcare in the same way as the colleges below, then that’s a strong sign that they’re colleges worth attending.
The colleges below were selected from a range of sources. These sources focused on different areas of healthcare education and innovation, such as nursing, systemic healthcare reform, curriculum content and overall rankings of the best medical schools. These sources are as follows:
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Advancing Healthcare Transformation
- Harvard Business Review, Transforming Health Care from the Ground Up
- Modern Healthcare: Medical Schools aim to make curriculums mirror the real world
- Niche, 2021 Top Colleges for Health Professions
- Universities.com, Best Healthcare Colleges in the U.S.
After sourcing the colleges from these lists, we then conducted further research into each institution. This research highlighted further ways in which the colleges were innovating healthcare.
The ranking criteria for the following colleges are as follows: Aggregated rankings/mentions in the methodology sources, evidence of creating a range of healthcare innovations, and evidence of commitment to improving healthcare in the future.
The ranking, from 30 to one, is as follows:
30. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
The spirit of innovation in education at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences remained just as strong in 2020 as in previous years, despite social distancing. For example, over 1,000 students from the college’s three campuses participated in virtual interprofessional events in October and November 2020 alone. These events were instrumental in broadening students’ medical knowledge in a range of diverse areas. One student, Michael Peysaknov, who is studying to become a doctor, stated that he learned new information about the role of diagnostic medical sonographers and their different responsibilities depending on state laws. Universities.com names Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences the ninth best college for healthcare in America.
29. Rowan University
Glassboro, New Jersey
While Rowan University’s medical school is relatively new, opening in 2012, the college reached out to a range of forward-thinking medical schools to create an innovative curriculum, Modern Healthcare notes. The medical education at Rowan University teaches students to be empathetic in a range of interesting ways. For instance, students must perform at least 40 hours of non-medical community service every year. And this innovative education will only grow in future years. In late 2020, the college was able to gain $1.68 million to support a new school of Osteopathic Medicine.
28. Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
Modern Healthcare notes that the educational approach of Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is centered around challenging students to come up with new solutions to health issues, like low immunization rates. Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is a very new college. In fact, its first class of students only enrolled in 2020. However, it is already doing several things that are sure to positively impact the medical industry and its students. For example, its first five graduating classes will pay no money to attend. And even before the first class formally began studying, the prospective students began discussing the racial-justice movement and how that would impact their careers.
27. Rush University
American Association of Colleges of Nursing praises Rush University’s integrated clinical, teaching, and research services. Rush University’s current strategic plan has the ambitious aim of transforming health care. It is achieving this ambition by creating state-of-the-art learning environments, fostering innovative curricula, building upon its research strengths, and much more. Additionally, the college has an entire division dedicated to innovation and technology transfer. Specifically, this division educates inventors about intellectual property, evaluates new technology, helps with patents, and performs many similar activities.
26. East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
Thanks to the American Medical Association, East Carolina University has been able to fund the Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change In Healthcare initiative. This initiative aims to transform the college’s physician education, enabling it to close the gap in providing safer, higher quality care for patients. Modern Healthcare praises how the college has used this funding to prepare faculty members to teach this initiative. In late 2020, East Carolina University’s occupational therapists showed how they used their expertise to address an under-focused area. They have been helping older drivers make plans to maintain their independence as they age, both with and without driver’s licenses.
25. Elms College
Two health systems in Massachusetts have formed academic-practice partnerships with Elms College to teach nurses for a discounted tuition rate, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes. Students who have participated in programs that work with one of these health systems have gained vital skills. For example, Xaymara DeJesus says, “My classes taught me how to be an effective leader and think about the business side of healthcare.” Graduates of Elms College are also innovating healthcare. For instance, Crystal Allen graduated from the college in 2018 and now holds a job that makes healthcare “more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective.” She has done this by collecting medical items that are past their expiration dates but still in good condition and reusing them for education purposes.
24. Medical College of Wisconsin
Modern Healthcare notes that the Medical College of Wisconsin is one of several medical schools in America that have launched the National Transformation Network, which aims to increase character, competence, and caring in college medical education. Medical College of Wisconsin also runs the Innovations in Healthcare Education Research Conference on an annual basis. This conference allows healthcare professionals to have a chance to share new teaching programs and methods. In early 2021, the college announced that it had been given a $1.56 million grant to develop new EPR Spectrometer technology for biomedical research.
23. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
Innovation at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine is spearheaded by the Innovation and Design team at the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center. This team brings together interdisciplinary groups to develop healthcare solutions via brainstorming, observational techniques, prototyping, sketching, storytelling, visualization, and more. Thanks to this approach, the Innovation and Design team has worked on over 400 projects. This team’s achievements include forming a pregnancy care model that helps low-risk patients interact with healthcare providers from home, simplifying patient experiences through an app, halving the time genetic counselors take to identify familial risks, and more. In late 2020, the college released a report that highlighted the changes in substance use among the public due to coronavirus. Modern Healthcare notes that the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine is one of seven colleges to launch the National Transformation Network.
22. Rice University
Harvard Business Review notes that Rice University is using its endowment to invest in Iora Health to increase the number of patients that the health system serves. Additionally, Rice University’s Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship runs a certificate program in Commercialization of Medical Innovation. This program pairs the college’s “bioengineering students with MBA students from Rice Business School and clinical trainees from Texas Medical Center institutions.” This program then immerses the participants in a diverse range of medical settings, such as research hospitals and community clinics, to identify how the healthcare industry can be innovated. When the coronavirus crisis hit America, Rice University was quick to innovate, with the community engineering a range of new lifesaving devices and establishing new forms of research.
21. State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University
New York City, New York
In 2018, a new initiative at the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University sought to reduce the number of healthcare-associated infections. This initiative used the BioVigil system badge to show healthcare providers when they needed to wash their hands. Thanks to these badges, cross-contamination events at the medical center saw a 50% reduction within six months. But the college has been leading medical innovation for a long time. One of its most impressive achievements to date has been its collaboration with New York City scientists to create The Biotechnology Park, one of just two biotechnology incubators in the city, and BioBat, a home for established biotech companies. Niche considers State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University to be the fourth-best college in America for health professions.
20. Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
The Center for Healthcare, Innovation, Redesign, and Learning at Yale University focuses on patient safety through learning laboratories. Its achievements include running projects that have improved the emergency transfer of neurological patients, improved patient transfer within hospitals, and reduced hospital readmissions of discharged patients. Additionally, in late 2020, the college’s school of medicine announced a study that would examine the long-term impacts on the survivors of coronavirus. Universities.com names Yale University the third best healthcare college in America.
19. Tulane University
New Orleans, Louisiana
In late 2016, Tulane University formed a partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana in an effort to improve the state’s healthcare. This partnership funded research, education, and outreach into the community. And in late 2019, the college joined a $3 million Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Louisiana Economic Development, Louisiana State University, and the New Orleans BioInnovation Center. Less than one year later, this agreement resulted in a $1.5 million federal grant, which would support a program that would form partnerships with local healthcare systems and improve health outcomes. Niche considers Tulane University to be the second-best college for health professions in America.
18. University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
The Center for Simulation Innovation at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, is a state-of-the-art simulation hospital that gives students optimal healthcare education. And in late 2020, the college announced that it had secured over $1 million in funding for projects that “advance research on aging, cancer, COVID-19, and trauma care.” These projects will heavily involve college researchers and feature a collaboration with The San Antonio Medical Foundation. Additionally, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing praises the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio’s Nursing Services Research & Development Plan, which allows nurses to focus on helping underserved communities.
17. University of Rochester
Rochester, New York
The University of Rochester’s leadership team’s integrated nature has helped the college’s healthcare education, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes. One of the primary drivers of healthcare innovations at the University of Rochester is the Center for Health + Technology. This center has existed for over three decades. It has “reshaped the conduct of clinical research while advancing knowledge to improve health for thousands, if not millions, of individuals.” This includes conducting 111 clinical trials and creating seven FDA approved treatments. The Center for Health & Technology continues to be at the forefront of healthcare innovation. For instance, in December 2020, it announced that one of its professors had been given a $1.8 million grant to analyze how space travel affects the immune system.
16. University of Colorado
In the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s report on healthcare transformation, the University of Colorado is cited for opening a 100% nurse staffed clinic that charges a monthly flat fee with no extra costs for patients. In 2020, the University of Colorado’s healthcare innovation work received a major boost. It managed to gain $50 million to create a healthcare innovation fund. This fund will invest in early-stage healthcare companies. However, the college already had the CARE Innovation Center. This center has been in existence since 2016, and during this time, it has helped over 500 health care companies. It has also formed 15 startup partnerships and 10 multinational partnerships.
15. Georgetown University
Two centers lead Georgetown University’s healthcare innovation efforts. One of these is the Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics. This center has existed since 2012. It is able to conduct groundbreaking research and accomplishments, thanks to having exclusive access to over 4 million patient records. The other center is The Center for Innovation in Global Health. This center was only established in 2020. However, it has already been proactive in its activities. For instance, it has partnered with the Malawian Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to manage a $20 million plan to prevent HIV and strengthen health security. Universities.com considers Georgetown University to be the sixth-best healthcare college.
14. Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Universities.com considers Duke University to be the second-best healthcare college in America. Three parts of the college’s health system specialize in innovating the healthcare industry. One is the Duke Institute for Health Innovation. The institute allows all of the college’s faculty, staff, students, and trainees to submit requests for novel healthcare improvement ideas. It has been in existence since 2013 and has led to the development of more than 65 healthcare solutions and over 10 companies. The second area is the college’s School of Nursing Health Innovation Lab. This lab acts as an incubator for testing healthcare innovations. The third division of the college that specializes in innovation is the Global Health Innovation Center. The center has a mission “to study and support the scaling and adaptation of innovations related to policy reforms to address critical health challenges worldwide.” In late 2020, the director of Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center assumed a leading role in distributing the coronavirus vaccine worldwide.
13. University of Virginia
The joint appointment model that the University of Virginia has adopted, where one faculty member will hold two positions, one being in the college’s health system, encourages collaboration, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing states. Additionally, Niche names the University of Virginia the 25th best college for health professions in America. The University of Virginia’s healthcare innovations go beyond the college’s medical school. For example, the college’s school of Engineering frequently collaborates with the health system. In 2020, the college’s health system leaders created a platform to improve communications with community groups.
12. Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Modern Healthcare commends the associate dean of Pennsylvania State University’s health systems education for working with the American Medical Association to make medical education more innovative. Additionally, Niche names the college the 60th best in America for health professions. Pennsylvania State University also runs the Center for Medical Innovation. Some of the companies to have come from this center include Ocunova, which provides treatment for diabetic chronic dry eye; SIG Medical Inc., which provides a device that fixes ribs in trauma patients; and AviCan Inc., which develops therapeutics for pancreatic cancer. And in late 2020, the college was given a $2 million grant from the PNC Foundation to create programming that cultivates wellness and economic innovation in the south-central Pennsylvania region and further afield.
11. The University of Mississippi
Niche names The University of Mississippi the 93rd best college for health professions in America. Harvard Business Review praises the college’s medical center for expanding patient access to care via a homegrown telehealth network. And thanks to over $63 million in research funding every year, The University of Mississippi’s medical center “is leading the way in discoveries that improve the lives and communities of Mississippians and beyond.” One recent healthcare innovation of The University of Mississippi was reducing the risk of post-operative pneumonia for lung and esophageal cancer patients through encouraging good oral hygiene.
10. University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Niche considers the University of Southern California to be the 33rd best college in America for health professions. Universities.com names it the eighth-best healthcare college in America. One of the primary areas of healthcare innovation at the University of Southern California is D+Health. D+Health focuses on digital innovations. It has touched the lives of over 60 million patients, found over 70 mentors, and formed over 255 partnerships. The college also runs the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and Innovation. This center has taken a proactive role in fighting coronavirus. For instance, it has developed a patient self-assessment tool, an evidence-based summary of coronavirus best practices, and written a range of thought leadership pieces on the virus.
9. The University of Wisconsin – Madison
Niche considers The University of Wisconsin – Madison to be the fifth-best college for health professions in America. Modern Healthcare notes that the college’s medical school is one of seven to launch the National Transformation Network. Additionally, The University of Wisconsin – Madison runs the Health Innovation program, which partners college faculty with a range of healthcare/community organizations. This center aims to improve the health of people in its state and across the USA. In late 2020, this program developed an algorithm that helped with the equity of distributing the coronavirus vaccine.
8. Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
Niche considers Washington University in St. Louis to be the third-best college for health professions in America. Universities.com names it the 10 best healthcare colleges in America. The Healthcare Innovation Lab is a cross-disciplinary organization established by both Washington University in St. Louis and BJC Healthcare in 2017. One example of this innovation laboratory’s work is developing an algorithm that predicts sepsis in patients before it is diagnosable. This algorithm could significantly reduce the number of deaths from sepsis, which currently causes one-third of all hospital deaths. In late 2020, the Innovation Lab awarded two $50,000 grants to two coronavirus related medical projects.
7. University of Florida
American Association of Colleges of Nursing praises the way that the University of Florida was able to unify its entire health system into one consistent strategic plan. Niche names the college the sixth-best for health professions in America. Many areas of this health system are geared toward innovation. One of the many examples is the Institute for Therapeutic Innovation. This institute focuses upon developing chemotherapy solutions for infectious diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis. Currently, the University of Florida is conducting what could be the largest fatty liver study of its kind in America, thanks to a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
6. Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire
When Harvard Medical School graduate Rushika Fernandopulle founded Iora Health, which would empower patients, Dartmouth College was one of his early partners, Harvard Business Review notes. Additionally, Modern Healthcare notes that the college’s medical school is also part of the National Transformation Network. And many activities are taking place at Dartmouth College to make healthcare better for all patients. For instance, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice has been in existence for more than 30 years. This center’s achievements include mapping disparities in medical resources across America and evaluating the effectiveness of breast cancer screening. In late 2020, this institute received $2.4 million in federal money to fund studies that would enhance how healthcare providers respond to coronavirus.
5. University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, California
Innovation at the University of California, San Francisco has accelerated thanks to its industry partnerships. This approach also ensures that the college’s findings can both improve lives and increase college revenue. To date, the college has been responsible for almost 2,000 medical inventions and over 200 startups. In 2018, its most successful inventions in terms of revenue were the Hepatitis B vaccine, the Ablation Device for Atrial Fibrillation, and Sickle Cell Disease Research tools. And in 2021, the college announced that it is bringing its innovative healthcare to its local community. This initiative includes the college building a modern hospital and other state-of-the-art facilities in the local area. The hospital is projected to open in the year 2030. Modern Healthcare notes that the college has joined six other medical colleges in launching the National Transformation Network. And the American Association of Colleges of Nursing is impressed with the University of California, San Francisco’s transdisciplinary research, which benefits every school within the college.
4. Vanderbilt University
Both Modern Healthcare and Universities.com highlight Vanderbilt University. Modern Healthcare states that Vanderbilt University is one of seven colleges to form the healthcare-focused National Transformation Network. Universities.com names it the fifth-best healthcare college in America. The innovative healthcare operations of Vanderbilt University accelerated in 2016 when it created the Center for Health Care Market Innovation. This center conducts “research on the demand for health care, how it is changing, and the capacity for new financing and delivery models.” And in 2020, Vanderbilt University Medical Center managed to perform “more heart transplants than any other center in the world,” thanks to its healthcare innovation efforts.
3. University of Pennsylvania
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing praises how the University of Pennsylvania has been linking its clinical practices with nursing faculty. Universities.com also ranks the college as the fourth-best in America for healthcare, noting that it has 61 healthcare degree programs. The University of Pennsylvania also has the Center for Health Care Innovation. This center comprises three different divisions, the Acceleration Lab, which energizes empowers people on the front lines of healthcare; the Nudge Unit, which leverages behavioral insights into medical decision making; and the Center for Digital Health, which advances digital health technologies for patients. In late 2020, the college also announced a new collaboration with the Comcast company Quil, which gives patients access to digital tools that aid with health care needs.
2. Harvard University
Universities.com considers Harvard University to be the best healthcare college in America. Additionally, Harvard Business Review notes that medical students at Harvard Medical School are able to improve their expertise through field trips around the world. Healthcare innovation at Harvard University goes far beyond its medical school. The Harvard Health Innovation Network has a mission to promote entrepreneurship and innovation all over the college’s ecosystem via connection, communication, and cultivation. In January 2021, Harvard University announced that a study it had conducted determined that antibiotics are unnecessary after routine sinus surgeries. This is just the latest of many medical innovations to come from the college.
1. Northwestern University
Northwestern University’s Center for Primary Care Innovation works “to strengthen, improve, and transform primary care through education, research, and clinical innovation.” Additionally, the college’s medical simulation department runs the Innovation Laboratory, which invents and produces medical training devices. Inventions that have come from this laboratory include neonate chest tube simulators, pediatric surgery simulations, and facial laceration simulations. In late 2020, Northwestern University received a $2.4 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop and deploy a wearable coronavirus sensor. Universities.com names Northwestern University the seventh best college for healthcare in America. Niche names it the best college for health professions in America.
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