Thriving in the medical device industry

Tom Jaakola outside on sidewalk

After earning his undergraduate degree in neuroscience, Tom Jaakola thought he might go to medical school, but he wanted to explore other health- and science-related fields and keep his options open. His curiosity led him to the Master of Biological Sciences (MBS) program at the U of M’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

“I believed that the MBS program was going to not only help prepare me for (medical school), but I knew that it would prepare me for a related career in either science, health care, or something similar,” he says.

A big part of Jaakola’s interest in health care stems from his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 13. “When I was a kid, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that career-wise,” he says. “But as I got older and more interested in science, I started wanting to try to get a job in health care. It's what I felt most passionate about, based on what had happened to me.”

After earning his undergraduate degree, Jaakola worked as a nursing assistant at the University of Minnesota Medical Center for a few years to get exposure to the healthcare field.

“I saw that if I had a career in health care as a physician or physician's assistant, a nurse, nurse practitioner, or really anything—that there are a lot of good opportunities. That was a good way for me to figure out whether I would like it or not.”

In the MBS program, Jaakola was able to study different subjects as well as dive deeper into the ones that interested him.

“Not only was it nice that we were able to dwell on these topics so much and try to learn as much as we could, but it was also nice (to have) someone like Dr. Khalil Ahmed (from the U of M Medical School) guide me in my learning.”

Jaakola currently works for ICU Medical researching, analyzing, and writing reports on medical devices.

“Despite having no work experience in the field, I was selected over other candidates due to the knowledge and skills gained from my graduate work,” he says. “My degree from the University of Minnesota has set me up well for a successful career. Doors have opened for me.”

A tip for students
“If you're interested in the sciences, health care, or any of the related biological sciences, don't be afraid to keep exploring and trying to find out what you're interested in. Regardless of where your MBS degree ends up taking you … you'll be well-prepared for whatever career you end up doing.”

This story was adapted from the original at the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.