July 25, 2013

Vera Tice’s connection with WPI spans not only years of her life but generations of her family. After receiving a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a concentration in computer engineering, Tice spent over two decades working in the healthcare technology industry. Recently, she sat down with the Daily Herd to discuss her new position as the director of WPI’s Healthcare Delivery Institute, the parts of campus life she’s most excited to return to, and what it’s like to have a daughter who is currently a WPI student.


Describe the Healthcare Delivery Institute… what exactly does your department do?


The HDI is a university-wide research center across multiple disciplines serving as a focal point for research and educational programs and partnerships with industry, healthcare providers, and government organizations. We were founded in October 2011 to bring together WPI’s strengths in key research areas and education programs in order to tackle the challenge of creating the future of healthcare delivery.


Our mission is to reinvent healthcare by developing new ways to deliver quality care to wherever people may be: in health facilities, homes, the community, the workplace, or on the go. Our vision is to become a national hub for creating innovative healthcare solutions in our laboratory at 85 Prescott St. As we continue to move forward, we are focused on growing our research programs and educational offerings, establishing a living-learning laboratory as a focal point for enhancing and growing partnerships with industry, healthcare providers, and government organizations, and acquiring partnerships and funding.


Why is healthcare so important to WPI?


It’s important because it presents the university with a tremendous opportunity to channel its strengths in project-based research and education to this problem space. Healthcare is one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, contributing $2.87 trillion to the economy (approximately 1/5 of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Labor estimated the sector would supply one out of every two jobs created in the U.S. between 2010 and 2020. Graduates of WPI with education and project experience in healthcare will be in high demand.


Can you describe a typical day in your life as HDI director?


I am responsible for its overall strategy and leadership. I’ve been building and establishing strategic relationships with industry and other potential partners, working with faculty to define and articulate relevant areas of research expertise and the living lab concept, stewarding the development of new educational programs, leading the definition and delivery of major initiatives—such as our annual symposium and innovation showcase, and working with University Advancement to identify and cultivate funding opportunities.


What steps in your career led you back to campus after graduating?


Prior to joining WPI, I held positions as chief operating officer, vice president, and senior director with healthcare technology companies and led my own consulting company. I also held various senior management and engineering positions in research and development with Nokia and Hewlett-Packard’s Medical Products Group.


A couple of years ago, I consulted to some of HDI’s founding faculty. As both a WPI alum and healthcare industry leader, I was very excited about the research work faculty was doing related to shaping the future of healthcare delivery. I worked with them to develop a 5-year strategic plan focused on applying WPI’s expertise to the challenge of healthcare delivery. I looked forward to the opportunity to help WPI become a national leader in creating the future of healthcare delivery and joined WPI as the HDI’s first managing director in October 2011.


Which parts of life at WPI were you most excited to return to?


I’m excited to be working with very talented people at all levels across all departments and functions at WPI to establish the university as a national leader in addressing the healthcare delivery challenge. I’m also energized by the research, stimulating faculty, and energetic students engaged in real-world projects. Additionally, I am excited to meet other alumni as they visit and reconnect with WPI.


Your role on campus is fairly new. How do you think it has impacted the community?


I am working to increase the visibility of HDI both inside and outside of WPI. We are very excited that we have recently entered into a strategic affiliation with UMass Medical School to collaboratively define and develop key research and educational initiatives to improve healthcare delivery, using Worcester and surrounding communities in central Massachusetts as a test bed.


Your daughter is going into her junior year at WPI. What’s that like for you? Do you get to see her often?


My daughter, Lauren, is a chemical engineering major. I periodically see her around campus. From time to time she grabs a ride home with me for a weekend visit. It’s great to see her excited about what she is learning and her time here at WPI.

Interview by Christine Melhorn

Photos by Louie Despres