After 17 years in technology industry, man goes back to school at Rutgers for Physician Assistant degree
Gidon Coussin, a current Rutgers student, worked as a technology entrepreneur for 17 years before deciding to discover another professional area.
He is now in his second semester of Rutgers’ three-year Physician Assistant (PA) Program. He said that he applied to Rutgers in November 2015, was accepted the following March and began school in September.
“I think I realized I was done with business. I really wanted to give back,” Coussin said. “I know it sounds cliche, but I really wanted to help people and do something with people. Seventeen years around business tables has its advantages but I wanted to do something else.”
Coussin said his first step in his new career path was working as a volunteer emergency medical technician. After completing his paramedic training, he decided that he wanted to pursue it further. That was when he learned about Rutgers’ PA Program.
He said that the PA degree is perfect for him because it will allow him to work in the medical field alongside doctors without having to enroll in a Medical Degree (MD) program, which would take much longer. The PA program at Rutgers takes 32 months to complete.
“The PA usually does the screening, the consultation, even prescriptions but they have to have a doctor. It's a teamwork kind of thing, which I'm fine with,” Coussin said. “I'm not looking for the glory. Someone told me, 'If you want to do the work that's 80 to 90 percent of what a doctor does, go PA. If you need the title, go be an MBA.' I'm not at the point in my life that I care about that. I just want to work.”
He said he received his bachelor's degree in his native Israel, then moved to the United States in 1999 while working for a cybersecurity company.
About three months later, he and a few friends started their own company, which would become the first of several, Coussin said. His last venture in the technology industry was a company he co-founded in 2007 called Boxee, which produced an interactive TV system similar to Apple TV.
He and his partners sold Boxee to Samsung in 2013.
After selling Boxee, Coussin began his medical training, he said. It took him almost three years to complete his paramedic program and all the prerequisite science courses that he had not taken for his bachelor's degree.
“I thought of myself as pretty much educated. I know a lot of stuff, and so on. But paramedic school was hard,” Coussin said. “It's not like I strolled through. I had to open books and read and learn. It's a humbling experience because you think that you're old hat and you find out that you're not. A lot of stuff I had to learn from the beginning.”
Although his background in the technology industry is not immediately relevant to the work he will be doing as a PA, he said that he is almost certain there will be opportunities to integrate the two.
“There is so much innovation to be done in the healthcare world. It's the last big frontier for tech,” Coussin said. “Tech is just now starting to look at this industry and to really take a stab. We're in the middle ages compared to where we're gonna be in 10 years."
The wearable devices that are available now are early examples of the technology that will likely revolutionize the healthcare industry, he said. He expects a major shift in the paradigm of how healthcare is delivered, which will be caused by advances in consumer technology.
Today, a patient goes to a doctor only when something has already gone wrong, but future technologies similar to our current wearable devices will alert the patient before a health problem manifests itself, Coussin said.
Because healthcare is such a large and firmly established industry, he said that he expects some resistance to change.
“Industries that are vested against technological progress are always gonna fight back. So it might take a while, but in the end you can't stop innovation,” Coussin said. “But if I can get someone to tell me before something happens, it will reduce the cost because the disease doesn't manifest itself and I don't overburden the system. So it will work economically better, and it will work better for me personally. That tends to win out.”
Maxwell Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.