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Back to school decision paying off for health-tech entrepeneur

Ashley Hassett

Making the decision to change careers and return to education can be daunting in a challenging job market. Western New York native Sabrina Cascucci left a stable job to go back to college at 38-years old to try and make an impact in the field of medical technology.

“I jokingly tell people that if I just graduate before I turn 40 I’ll be fine, and they say oh no you’ll be fine, I’m like no seriously that’s a concern,” said Cascucci.

University at Buffalo graduate student Sabrina Cascucci says she’d been working at the high-tech manufacturing company Greatbatch for over five years when she decided to quit her job and go back to college to earn a PhD in production systems engineering.

“I had a good job; I was a manger for their continuous improvement projects, so for all of the different plants that they had in the U.S. I was managing all of that. I lived in Indiana, and I had a house there. It was tough to say how do you go from a job where you make a very good living, to saying I’m going to move back in with my Mom and make less than I made ever as a working adult. So, that was certainly a tough decision, but the best decision ever,” said Cascucci.

Cascucci had racked up a lot of work experience before making the decision to go back to school. She’d spent over a year working as a process engineer at a nuclear reactor company, before working on a range of products for Greatbatch.  It was after she’d completed a project involving medical technology, and had moved onto one involving plumbing products that she had a realization.

“What I figured out while I was in the plumbing world was that I wanted to get back there, but I also wanted to take another different step to the problems in healthcare. Now I’m looking at care delivery. Understanding the devices themselves and the need for all these great products, is now how do we create processes and systems that can best utilize all of these great technologies,” said Cascucci.

With her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Perdue University and Masters of Business Administration from UB, you’d think it was time to settle down, but Cascucci decided to keep building her education, and focus her engineering skills on the medical field. She says her friends and family thought she was crazy, but she really wanted to find satisfaction in her work.

“What I didn’t realize way back then was that human side to engineering that comes into things and how you can really focus on that to make life better,”

Cascucci says one of most rewarding parts of being a student again is that she can explore different topic areas and her work is now being recognized nationally. Recently she and her fellow researchers presented their Emergency Room Mobile App to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health and Technology in Washington D.C.

“I’m really hoping that we can do something, no matter what direction it goes, it can make some real meaningful impact on the healthcare system,” said Cascucci.

Cascucci says the future for the ER app looks promising, but even as she’s finishing her PhD she’ll working on solutions to challenges within the health care sector. Those include improving the process of refilling hospital inventory to a program that keeps track of your medication schedule and medicines they conflict with.

Cascucci says her advice for those who aren’t where they want to be in their career is to take the plunge and go back to school no matter what age you are. She says you won’t regret it.

“I worked a lot when I was professional, so the 60 or 70 hour week was nothing. I probably do 80 or so now and I feel like I work less now than I did then,” said Cascucci.