Q&A: Deep Dive into the Biomedicine Program, Part 2
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Q&A: Deep Dive into the Biomedicine Program, Part 2

In part two of this podcast, we talk with Dr. Mitchell Scheiman, director of Salus University's Biomedicine program, dean of Research, and professor in the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). He talks to us about the uniqueness of the Biomedicine program and how it can advance any healthcare career.

Q: For the students who choose to do this program on campus, are there any facilities that the program can use?

A: The same facilities that are available to any of our students here at Salus University are available to our on-campus PhD students in Biomedicine. You've got the campus itself, you've got the library facilities, and whatever else is available. All the nice things about living in the Elkins Park area are available to our on-campus students. 

The PhD students sometimes get involved in some of the local activities, the groups, the student clubs and committees and things like that. All of our courses currently are graduate level, so you would be another graduate student and taking advantage of all the other things that Salus University has to offer.

Q: How is this program unique?

A: There are two primary aspects of the program that distinguish it from others. One, is the option to do a virtual program. I'll tell you, I personally did this program. I'm a graduate, I was the second graduate from this program. I started the course in 2012, the first year of its existence, and I graduated in 2016. And the only way I could have done this, a program like Salus University, I was not prepared to give up my position. As I told you earlier, I've been in practice for more than 45 years. And I just felt to complete my career, I wanted a PhD. But I couldn't move to Indiana, Houston, or Columbus, Ohio.

I wanted to stay where my family is, and to keep my job. And I actually did that. That really makes it unique because what I was able to do, is to maintain my position, they gave me 25 percent release time so that I'd have a little bit of extra time to do my assignments. But I was able to complete the program successfully in four years. So, that's really the most important distinction. 

The other one is that the courses themselves are not advanced coursework in your area of specialty. They're all related to how to do research. Those are the two factors that I think you need to think about our program and compare that to others, as you go about to deciding what choice to make.

research student holding eyedropper

Q: What type of professions gain the most from earning this degree and how does it advance their careers?

A: It's not really profession-specific, that's the beauty of the program. Almost regardless of your profession, this course is going to really enable you to advance your career. Traditionally, we've had people from optometry, audiology, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, physician assistant studies. But we've also had, like I mentioned earlier, we have an individual right now, who's in the program who was doing cancer research. Most of our students are healthcare professionals, and the research they do is clinical research, but it doesn't have to be. We have the ability to do basic lab research as well. 

It's not so much which type of profession, but it's really which type of career aspirations or what career aspirations you have. The three reasons for doing a PhD like this in Biomedicine would be career advancement, career change, or personal satisfaction and growth.

In some institutions, I'm sure some of you are in healthcare professions where there's an accreditation process. And the accreditation process says, “For your institution to be accredited 50 percent of the faculty have to have a PhD." If you're in that situation, there's going to be pressure from your program director, your chairperson, to take an advanced degree to help you maintain your status. 

Other people are actually looking for a career change. That was one of the reasons I did this. I wanted to make research a bigger component of what I did. And also, I was seeking an administrative position at Salus University. For instance, the position I'm in now, I could not have achieved that if I didn't have a PhD degree, it was one of the requirements. That's another situation in which you'd have a lot to gain from doing this degree and then of course, personal satisfaction.

If you're a healthcare professional, it's one thing to practice evidence-based medicine or healthcare. It's another thing to actually participate and create the new evidence that people will use. From a personal satisfaction perspective, if that's where you stand and seek to gain that, this is another reason to do a PhD here at Salus University.

woman sitting in front of computer screen

Q: Do you have any advice or tips for anyone who may be interested in pursuing this program?

A: A few things I tell people from my personal experience with the program and working with the students over the years, trying to move them through the program as rapidly as possible. It really helps if right now, you begin thinking about an area of interest for you, and trying to define in a broad way, a research area, a research question, something that you've been thinking about for the last few years that bothers you. 

Clinically, you see this happen all the time. You don't quite understand why we do things a certain way, why this intervention works, why we don't do another one. If you're thinking about coming into this program, it really helps to get a running start to have a research question or two that you think you'd like to pursue.

And even to start thinking about, if you're going to do this virtually, is there someone in the area, is there a university, laboratory? Is there a researcher I know that I've read about that, that I think I might want to work with? That really helps us get you off to a really good start in that first semester. 

And then think about, would it be possible if you're going to do this program virtually, to kind of get a sense of whether your institution, university, where you work at now, wherever you work, whether you'd be able to cut back a little bit in terms of your time commitment. Let's say from a hundred percent to 75 percent, that's what most students have done. Those are some things to explore as you're pursuing or thinking about this program here at Salus University.

Q: Is there just anything you would like to add that you haven't touched upon today?

A: I want to encourage those of you who are in the situation where you’ve been hesitant about taking this next step and applying for a PhD program and pursuing a PhD program, that it's very, very possible to do this. I know, like I told you from my own personal experience, I maintained my position. Everything is feasible, you can do this. 

But you are going to be working harder than you work now. Before you start the program, you're going to be doing some work in the evenings, you're going to be doing some work on the weekends, but it's worth it. It can make a tremendous change in your career, it could help your career advancement, career change, personal satisfaction like I said before.

And everyone here at Salus University works hard to make sure that every student that starts the program, completes the program successfully. And again, we have very high success rate. Any other questions, I'm always available through email. We can set up a call to address any of your personal questions and issues. I'd love to talk to you further.