There wasn’t much doubt in the minds of the faculty in UAB’s School of Business that adding a new Medical Equipment and Supplies Distribution track in the school’s highly successful Industrial Distribution program would be popular.

Thomas DeCarlo says the newly created Medical Equipment and Supplies Distribution track will provide students knowledge of medical and health industry- distribution operations. 

But if they needed confirmation, they received it this past fall.

“We hosted an informal session to gauge interest in what was then a proposed program, and we had upward of 100 students in attendance,” says Thomas DeCarlo, Ph.D., professor and the Ben S. Weil Endowed Chair of Industrial Distribution. “Those numbers confirmed our assumptions that this program would appeal to students.”

The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the program at its meeting Feb. 2, cementing the curriculum as one of only two degree-granting programs in the Southeast that provide students with both business and engineering classes.

“We are very excited about this program and the possibilities it will provide for the students of UAB,” DeCarlo says. “It is designed to provide Industrial Distribution (ID) students specific and core knowledge of medical and health industry-distribution operations. This curriculum will not only offer excellent career opportunities for our students, it also will provide the medical equipment and supplies industry with well-qualified graduates.”

The new Medical Equipment and Supplies Distribution track will begin classes in September. The track combines business classes with courses in human anatomy, chemistry and health-care systems.

DeCarlo says a large and rapidly growing segment of the economy comprises manufacturers and distributors of medical and health-care products. A recent BusinessWeek article reports the 12-month average number of jobs in wholesale medical equipment and drugs increased by 45,000 from July 2001 to July 2006.

But executives in this sector say there is a need for professional graduates who have a background that is tailored to meet unique industry requirements, such as sales and logistics professionals who have specific knowledge of the medical and health-care industry sectors. General business, sales, marketing and logistics expertise also is needed. Especially crucial is the need for graduates to have knowledge of the structure of the health-care industry, medical terminology and medical and health-care purchasing systems.

Robert Holmes, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Business, says UAB is uniquely positioned to offer business education that integrates the latest industry demands of the growing health-care industry.

“UAB’s medical enterprise is recognized around the world for its innovations in research and health-care delivery,” Holmes says. “We can draw on that expertise, as well as those companies that provide healthcare-related products and services to help us initiate new programs.”

DeCarlo joined UAB in June and shepherded the final stages of the project that was begun by former chair Jay Smith. DeCarlo says ID faculty and staff including Robert Robicheaux, Ph.D., Thomas Powers, Ph.D, Karen Kennedy, Ph.D., and Kristen Craig deserve much of the credit for their input and time in developing the curriculum.

“They have really labored over the program in getting it to where it is now,” DeCarlo says.