For Kendall Sanderson, E’13, fixing healthcare systems isn’t just a professional imperative—it’s personal. His mother is a survivor of multiple cancers, and he watched her struggle to navigate the healthcare system.
During his co-ops, Sanderson became convinced that his professional mission was to make healthcare more efficient and patient-friendly.
“I saw people not being treated well and having poor outcomes solely due to system flaws. The idea of finding solutions became compelling,” he says.
Sanderson’s first co-op was at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston, a placement he found thanks to Professor James Benneyan, one of the world’s leading
authorities on healthcare systems engineering.
Sanderson’s project at the VA was to “engineer” a nursing supply system and closet. That may seem mundane, until you realize that if nurses can find supplies just five minutes faster, they can handle both medical emergencies and basic services more effectively.
His favorite co-op was at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he co-led a project to help the pediatric cancer unit improve patient flow.
“People were waiting to get blood drawn and that had to happen before any treatment could begin. There was a need for new spaces and new procedures, but to achieve both required changing a way of thinking. In the end, everything was better,” he explains.
Sanderson also conducted an independent study under Benneyan in which he showed how hospitals could coordinate scheduling for breast cancer operations, permitting reconstructive surgery to be performed the same day as the mastectomy. This is no simple feat; it requires aligning the schedules of two complete surgical teams during the window that patients can safely stay anesthetized.
Last spring, Sanderson won Northeastern’s Outstanding Cooperative Education Award. He’s now pursuing a master’s degree at Northeastern while working in Benneyan’s CMS Innovation Center for Healthcare Systems Engineering.