13:19 PM

Path to Healthcare Leader, Business Owner Began with Mid-Career Degree

By Liz Perry, Alumni Guest Blogger

In a world where medical supplies are now more crucial than ever, Bellevue University alumnus Burdette Brown is right in the thick of it as director of supply chain operations at Northfield Hospital and Clinics in Minnesota, near the Minneapolis area.

None of us were prepared for the way the world is going, but Brown’s education, experience and innovation have brought him to a place where he’s as prepared as possible.

“Our hospital has outstanding leadership and we have been in front of this,” he said. “We continue to prepare and get ready to meet this challenge. As the leader of logistics in our incident command structure, we have a very good tracking system in place, and have our supplies locked down.”

“Our process for delivery is very solid and can withstand the pressures ahead of us. Although we do not know how long this will last, we feel we are set to sustain longer because of our processes”

How did they get to such a solid place? It all began with learning, applying that knowledge and evolving along the way.

Mastering the Skills

Brown had experience as director of supply chain in a few smaller hospitals where a four-year degree was desired, but not required. He had already learned a lot through his peers, as well as trial and error, but wanted to push his knowledge and career potential to the next level.

It was somewhat daunting returning to school in his late 40s, but Brown did it. After completing his associate’s degree at a community college, he found the online Supply Chain, Transportation and Logistics Management program.

“I looked at every opportunity I could find,” he said. “I wanted to have a degree, wanted to be able to afford the school and I wanted it to work with my schedule. BU gave me an excellent degree, it was very affordable, and although it took some getting into a new routine, it worked perfectly with my schedule!”

Improving Healthcare Logistics

Brown credits his program instructor, Professor Patrick Ruddy, for helping him build on the knowledge he’d already acquired on the job.

“He pushed me to broaden my mind, to think more globally and to get out of my comfort zone on how I saw supply chain and logistics,” he said. “With his help, I now look at more than just how supply chain and logistics impact my hospital. I now look at how it starts with the raw material, and ends up in the hands of doctors and nurses to make the difference in what they do they do. Because of this, my hospital is better prepared for COVID-19.”

In looking past his own regional distribution chain, Brown saw the impact of a shortage of sterile gowns. He knew this could cause problems far beyond gowns, and that taught him how to prepare his hospital for the “what ifs.”

Creating New Solutions

Not long after completing his degree, Brown was working at Central Iowa Healthcare, which filed bankruptcy and many people lost their jobs.

”I decided when I left, I needed to find a way to reduce costs in the supply chain in a new way,” he said.

Working with a developer, and implementing RFID and intelligent automation, he sought to create an automated supply system at Northfield that built upon two-bin systems he’d already created in three hospitals. Phil My Bin, LLC was the result.

“Phil can reduce up to 48% of distribution costs by eliminating staff travel and computer time,” Brown said. “Instead of my staff walking around to each area of the hospital to see what needs to be replenished, Phil is able to do this through our technology.”

The cloud-based system also gathers the empty bins (electronically) and creates a report to help staff navigate the storeroom without any backtracking. This helps get needed supplies to departments more efficiently.

The system has also had an impressive, unintended benefit — in the face of COVID-19, supplies can be delivered with no contact.

“We are able to keep our staff 100% out of these areas,” Brown said. “We allow Phil to let us know what is in need of replenishment, we pull the product and deliver to the front door of each area. For now, distancing is huge and we are able to do so.”

Passing On the Knowledge

Word spread about the impact Phil could have on healthcare, and Brown was happy to share his findings. He has since spoken at several conferences around the country for hospital leaders.

“It has given me an opportunity to share my story about Phil, but more importantly, the journey I have been on since graduating from BU,” he said. “My life has changed more than I could have ever anticipated because of what professor Ruddy and BU have done for me.”

In addition to during his speaking engagements, Brown highly recommends BU to anyone looking to make a life change.

“The university treats every student like they are the most important student,” Brown said. “Also, when times were tough and some classes were difficult, I could pick up the phone or send an email to my instructor, and would receive the support I needed to succeed. College is meant to stretch your knowledge and with BU, mission accomplished!”