New life-saving device inspires university’s first MHA/MBA graduate

Imagine there’s an emergency situation where an object becomes lodged in a person’s windpipe. They’re unable to breathe properly, and someone calls 911. What if the paramedics who arrive carried with them a tool that could potentially save this person’s life? 

That’s one scenario driving Ashley Crockett ’11, MHA/MBA ’20 to bring the auto-trach injector —  her mother’s invention to the public. 

It’s a device that can automatically perform an emergency tracheostomy (a procedure that involves creating an opening in the neck and inserting a tube to allow air to reach the lungs) at times when surgical methods are unavailable. Similar to AED defibrillators and EpiPens, the device would be portable, accessible, and designed to work quickly.   

“It’s easy to use for someone with minimal training, and it will have mechanisms to show when the user applies the proper amount of pressure and when it’s in the correct positioning,” said Crockett. “We hope it will be of use not just in hospitals, but also in ambulance companies, fire departments, outpatient clinics, and the military, and possibly for at-home use.”

Ashley Crockett ’11, MHA/MBA ’20

The very first graduate of MBU’s master of healthcare administration and master of business administration (MHA/MBA) dual degree program, Crockett created a business plan investigating how to effectively bring this new medical device to market — for her final Capstone project. The auto-trach injector is now patent-pending.

“I definitely had a personal attachment to what I chose for my topic, but the device itself is so fascinating to me,” she said, “and given its innovative nature, I thought it would be the perfect choice for my Capstone.

“Once the patent is approved, my mother (the inventor) and I also hope to use this business plan when presenting the device to potential medical device manufacturers and potential investors. We are very excited about the possibilities.”

One of the unique benefits of MBU’s MHA/MBA program is how the final Capstone project helps each individual student build a bridge to their career and professional goals. 

“The final class is a great example of how the program enables our students to develop a significant strategic project using their previous coursework and the comprehensive knowledge that they’ve built,” said Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies. “The business courses in the MHA/MBA were developed with the goal of setting our graduates apart from their future peers.” 

In addition to helping Crockett pave the way forward for her mother’s invention, MHA/MBA coursework also gave her skills that are immediately valuable to her career.

“The program taught me so much about what it means to be an effective and successful healthcare leader and professional,” said Crockett, who is a referral and authorization specialist for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. “One class in particular, Health Analytics and Decision Support, really helped to sharpen my analytical skills and attention to detail, as well as show me things that are crucial to efficient healthcare clinic functions.”

“Now that I have these degrees under my belt, I feel confident that I can advance into leadership roles and further my career in healthcare.”

Ashley Crockett ’11, MHA/MBA ’20

Enhancing students’ leadership capabilities is also a major feature of the program, designed with employers’ needs in mind.

“A business focus on the healthcare market combines quite effectively with a healthcare administration focus that is deeply rooted in healthcare management,” said Kim Nine, program director for the MHA. “Through our program, students come away with the knowledge, skills, and ability necessary to forge a career in high-level healthcare leadership.”

“Now that I have these degrees under my belt, I feel confident that I can advance into leadership roles and further my career in healthcare,” Crockett said. “Thanks to everything I’ve learned in the program combined with professional skills I’ve developed in my almost 10 years of working in healthcare, I know I have what it takes to succeed.”

In a 100% online program such as the MHA/MBA that is geared toward working professionals, communication is key. Students gain their professors’ industry expertise, but not at the expense of human-to-human support. 

“I was blessed with professors and an adviser that were always there to answer my questions whenever I needed them,” said Crockett. “They really want to see you succeed, and they want to help you do well; I never felt like I was having to go through this program alone.”

Because MBU Online professors get to know their students well and understand their unique situations, they become their students’ biggest supporters, both in the classroom and through their own professional networks.

“It’s been an honor to teach Ashley three times as she earned her dual degree, including guiding her distinctive Capstone project,” said Mark Erath, assistant professor of healthcare administration. “She’s been a pace-setter on many levels through the whole journey. That includes an amazing work ethic, emerging as a collegial leader within our high-performing student teams, consistently setting a high bar academically in all our diverse subjects covered, and clever, practical application of all we’ve learned. Her direction and momentum for future impact are inspiring.”  

To learn more about the MHA/MBA dual degree, part of MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, please visit the program’s website.

For those students interested in a single degree, the university also offers stand-alone career-oriented programs for the MHA (with track options in Health Systems Leadership or Quality and Systems Safety) and the MBA (which a Healthcare Administration concentration as one of four options). Both degree programs are offered 100% online.