Southwestern has announced a transformative partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital and the Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital beginning in the summer of 2024. In collaboration with Southwestern alumni, this partnership introduces an unparalleled opportunity for students interested in healthcare careers through a summer interdisciplinary internship, research internship, observership programs, and an experiential learning course.

The summer internship program is an eight-week learning experience at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. Selected students will receive $3000 through the University’s Funded Internship Program. They will immerse themselves in interdisciplinary, hands-on professional development, networking, and mentorship while navigating multiple rotations in the quality department, process improvement, strategic planning, orthopedics and sports medicine, spiritual care, and patient experience. Vice President for Academic Affairs Alisa Gaunder says the interdisciplinary internship at Willowbrook is inspired by Southwestern’s Paideia philosophy of making connections. Students will experience several aspects of healthcare, from areas as diverse as marketing to spirituality. This internship will expose students to various careers in the healthcare sector– all related to running a world-class medical center.

The summer observership program offers a four-week opportunity for students to gain exposure to healthcare operations. The observership may include rotations in Internal Medicine, Family Practice, OBGYN, Cardiology, Neurology, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Outpatient Therapies. Students will have the opportunity to explore various medical specialties they are interested in pursuing.

Southwestern also allows students to partner with the Houston Methodist Academic Institute for a 10-week summer internship program to offer chosen interns a chance to collaborate with renowned research experts. The program matches students with faculty mentors in laboratories where they will focus on a single research project and includes weekly didactic lectures given by the mentors and invited speakers and numerous opportunities for networking and social interaction.

An additional highlight is the chance to observe at Houston Methodist during an experiential learning course called “Organizational Communication” led by Professor of Communication Studies Bob Bednar in the summer. This course explores organizational communication through a collaborative, high-impact, inquiry-based approach. Students will investigate interpersonal, group, and mediated communication patterns and processes within diverse organizations. The focal point of the course revolves around an in-depth case study examining the workings of brand management, external relations, internal employee communications, organizational development, and patient communications at Houston Methodist Hospital. This collaboration exemplifies Southwestern’s commitment to providing enriching opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and make a positive impact in the healthcare industry.

“It is extremely exciting to be at the beginning of such a well-suited collaboration between Houston Methodist and Southwestern University to create experiential learning opportunities for various careers in the medical field. Houston Methodist places high value on Innovative Education. This is evident by the caliber of research, number of residency & fellowship programs, and partnerships with nursing & medical schools and local school districts,” Bruce said. “ The Southwestern University liberal arts education pairs well with the Houston Methodist ICARE culture– Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence. In addition, both organizations are faith-based and strive to put patients/students at the center of all we do.”

As this partnership begins, there is a clear sense of expectation and promise. This partnership is more than just a training ground for future healthcare professionals; it’s a platform for developing leaders who will reflect Southwestern University’s and Houston Methodist’s core values. These students are being prepared to make meaningful and impactful contributions in the medical field and beyond.

Special thanks to Tim Boone ’77, director of education at the Houston Methodist Academic Institute and professor of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College, Stephanie Bruce ’93, Assistant Chief Quality Officer, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, Charles Millikan ’68, Vice President for Spiritual Care and Values Integration at The Methodist Hospital, Keith Barber ’85, Chief Executive Officer at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, Erin Skelley ’94, Vice President, Brand Marketing at Houston Methodist, and Mark Easterly ’92, Vice President, Legal Services at Houston Methodist for making this partnership possible.