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International Study Tour Takes MCTM Students to Costa Rica

Back: left to right: Nick Terry, Nick Cook, Dr. Rodriguez, Julia Walsh. Prof Wright, Prof Talley Front: left to right: Kelly Hartmann, Ashley Scott, Autumn Waska, Ahmed Al-RawiThe Master in Clinical Translation Management program includes three residency periods that are integral to the student experience in the program.

  • The program starts with the students gathering on campus for the first residency period; during this residency period, students start their coursework for the program and get introduced to the life sciences ecosystem in Houston.
  • The second residency period is midway during the program and is offered at an international location. Students' international study is part of the tuition for the MCTM program excluding airfaire and personal incidentals.
  • The program concludes with the third residency period at the BIO conference; in 2020, the conference is at San Diego.

International Study Abroad to Costa Rica

Cohort 4 of the MCTM program participated in a study-abroad program to Costa Rica for their second residency period. On Jan. 4-8, seven UST students and two faculty members traveled to Costa Rica. The program was arranged in collaboration with the Graduate Studies Center at the Universidad Fidelitas in San Jose, Costa Rica.

“The program is planned carefully to maximize deep learning through a combination of classroom instruction, visits to relevant sites, and opportunities for reflection,” Dr. Beena George, Chief Innovation Officer, said. “Dr. Roberto Rodriguez and his team at Universitas Fidelitas worked closely with us to identify the sites for student visits. The goal is to advance the students’ understanding of the life sciences industry and the multiple stakeholders in the industry.”

Residency Program is a Unique Opportunity

“The residency period in Costa Rica far surpassed my expectations - we were given unique chance to visit various biotech companies and gain first-hand experience as to what a career in this field entails,” MCTM student Kelly Hartman said. “This immersive experience provided opportunities for us to learn about the industry, become acclimated with Costa Rican culture, and to establish meaningful connections that are sure to supplement our professional endeavors moving forward.”

Action-Packed Itinerary

The action-packed itinerary gave the students an overview of both the business and scientific sides of the clinical research process in Costa Rica.

On the first day, students attended sessions on the business climate of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican health administration system and the clinical translation arena in Costa Rica. These presentations set the foundation for the visits and the discussions on the following days.

“These particular presentations provided a real insight into the country’s mechanistic funding structure of healthcare, and the functional social dynamic of the Costa-Rican populous inasmuch as it relates to their healthcare spending beahiviors in a system characterized by “universality,” MCTM student Ahmed AlRawi said.

CINDE - Costa Rican Foreign Direct Investment Agency

The first visit was to CINDE, Costa Rican Foreign Direct Investment Agency, which is a private, non-profit, non-political organization responsible for the attraction of foreign investment. The organization was founded in 1982 and has helped hundreds of companies settle and bring major benefits to the country.

PROCOMER – Costa Rica Agency for Promoting Exporting and International Commerce

In addition, students had an opportunity to visit PROCOMER, Costa Rica Agency for Promoting Exporting and International Commerce. The interactions and conversations at these two organizations gave students an overview of the life sciences industry in Costa Rica.

HOLOGIC, Gutis Labs and Laboratorios Lisan

The group then toured key companies and labs in the city including Hologic, a medical technology company selling medical devices for surgery and medical imaging; Gutis Labs, a world-class pharmaceutical company; Laboratorios Lisan that focuses on the research and development of natural products; and, Boston Scientific, a manufacturer of medical devices used in interventional medical specialties.

“While listening to the presenters and touring the facilities, I gained a clearer understanding and vision of where this discipline is currently, what it is ultimately attempting to achieve, and most importantly, where improvements can be made,” MCTM student Ashley Scott said.

The study-abroad program also included cultural excursions. Thegroup toured the city of San Jose’, including a walk and visit to the National Theater & Gold Museum.

MCTM students reflect on their study abroad experience

“MCTM’s residency in Cost-Rica exposed the students to a multitude of companies with specific type of products catering to different groups of customers. In this sense, we explored the financial incentives promulgating the success of medical-surgical devices, pharmaceutical companies, holistic “therapy”, and technology devices designated for diagnostic purposes (while visiting production and assembly lines of each sub-group). This experience has truly provided a well-rounded understanding of the market dynamic pertaining to the healthcare industry, and the leverage such companies possess in being first market entrant while sustaining a viable operation amidst the massive investment such companies undertake to develop their products.”

- Ahmed AlRawi

 “The experiences gained from the residency will serve me well in my current role by allowing me to anticipate next steps in translational processes and in building strong communication among cross-functional teams.

- Ashley Scott

“Our Costa Rica trip was truly a rewarding experience. In terms of the country itself, it was refreshing to see how various sectors associated with the health industry in Costa Rica were cooperative in working towards a common goal of improving health equity and quality of care overall, in comparison to the American ‘ tug of war’ we sometimes see between insurance companies, hospitals, government agencies, etc in protecting their interests. 

“On a more technical note relevant to translation, hearing from people that deal with regulatory navigation on a daily basis was perhaps the most personally formative aspect of the trip. This experience showed me that, while the more apparent innovation of product development is certainly impressive, there can be innovation within creation of commercialization and regulatory pathways to match. It is truly an art within a rule set. I will take that philosophy with me going forward into my career.”

- Nick Cook