A New Angle for Healthcare Careers

Florida Polytechnic University Offers New Health Systems Engineering Program


Michael Ortiz’s plan is a career in health informatics once he graduates with his degree from Florida Polytechnic University.

Ortiz, a junior at the Lakeland Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) university, says he was “curiously excited” when he found out the public university is offering its first Health Systems Engineering (HSE) program. 

The HSE program is the first undergraduate curriculum in Florida with a concentration in health systems engineering, according to the school. The program will allow students interested in STEM and healthcare careers a way to prepare for jobs in both areas.  


“I’m very much a people person and like to deal with people. I wanted to do something that directly impacts others. I want to get into a good, quality (healthcare) system where I can affect change and make progress on systems that are already in place” says Ortiz, 23, of Kissimmee. 

Dr. Grisselle Centeno, director of the HSE program and a professor in the Florida Poly data science and business analytics department, says the new undergraduate program will give students the chance to learn how to use STEM skills in healthcare delivery careers. The program will allow students pursuing a degree in data science or business analytics to concentrate in health systems engineering. Those majoring in computer science or electrical, mechanical or computer engineering also will be able to get HSE certificates.

Career opportunities in HSE systems include engineering in healthcare, health informatics, health data science, medical device development and medical supply chain management. Centeno says healthcare captures 18 percent of the national gross domestic product, equal to about $3.5 trillion. She says there are challenges and opportunities to improve health systems in hospitals and clinics, which constitute about 80 percent of the 18 percent.

Overall, HSE helps hospitals and medical centers more efficiently handle and compile day-to-day data and records while making patient records more accurate, complete and streamlined. 

Centeno says the university had a degree in Health Informatics, which is less formal and leaned more toward academics, whereas the HSE evolved to focus on research, systems education and special projects. 

“This (HSE) has been an idea since the beginning of Florida Poly,” says Centeno, who is in her second year at Florida Poly and 20th year in her teaching career. “After I arrived, the school wanted to find an area that will bring about a distinction and help differentiate it from sister universities in the area, a way to distinguish its faculty and students.” 

As for the curriculum for HSE, Centeno says HSE wants to partner with the university’s Advanced Mobility Institute, which focuses on transportation and the ongoing evolution of connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute in Bartow. She says HSE’s concentration is on “process, analysis and decision-making.” 

The HSE program, which got additional startup funding through an anonymous donor, covers organizational skills and courses to show healthcare improvement through engineering and mathematical and computational modeling. To help do that, Florida Poly will be working with healthcare industry partners such as Lakeland Regional Health, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and AdventHealth Nicholson Center in Celebration to develop hands-on projects for students. 

“Our students are generally very healthy and perhaps never stepped into a hospital. They don’t understand…what the role healthcare plays within the national economy,” adds Centeno, a native of Puerto Rico who also taught at Tampa’s University of South Florida. “We bring all that to their attention during the first two weeks of classes because we want our students to become immediate contributors when they graduate.

Centeno says HSE students should want to help transform healthcare delivery and can come from any of the university’s backgrounds and take part in the structured programs in a “we help you, you help us” partnership. 

Other than a solid background, knowledge and good career in healthcare, Centeno says the motivation behind HSE is “health.” 

“We’ll always have health and health issues and opportunities to improve them,” she says.
“With natural disasters and now COVID-19, those are extra motivators for us to continue to train and for our students to contribute. Students can recognize all the things they can do and how they can apply their knowledge not only in the classroom but in the hospital and real healthcare systems while having an immediate impact on patient experiences”

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