25 Faces 25 Years: Bill Drust
By Mary Caparosa ’16
Photo by Andrew Pellegrino ’18
March 1, 2017
After seven years in a communications role at digital entertainment company Rovi, Bill Drust was looking for a change. While most career jumps look more like hops, Drust took a vaulting leap — and landed in Drexel’s Master’s Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS).
“I’ve always had a wide range of interests,” he says.
The STS program indeed attracts a diverse bunch, from physicists and engineers to sociologists and political scientists. Coming from a family of nurses, Drust’s research interests quickly gravitated toward medical technologies. His master’s thesis focused on the da Vinci Surgical System, a minimally invasive surgical platform in which a surgeon’s hands are enhanced by robotic technology. After reading claims of potentially unnecessary risks associated with the technology, Drust decided to investigate further. He conducted interviews with doctors who use the system and explored the ethics of using such a device.
“When you have a new medical technology, there are a lot of reasons why you want to implement it. The one you have to tell the public is, ‘It has better patient outcomes,’ but there are other reasons,” Drust says. “It might make the surgeon’s job easier, or allow more doctors to perform the surgery who wouldn’t have the skill to do it without this technology. But it is wildly expensive, and we live in a country where a lot of people can’t afford basic medical care. The ethical question becomes, ‘Where do you draw the line on how expensive is too expensive?’”
Drust’s work landed him three fully funded offers from doctoral programs around the country. This fall, he relocated to begin a PhD in sociology at Loyola University Chicago, where his research will continue to focus on innovations in medical technologies and their effect on the work done by medical professionals, as well as on the patient experience.
Like his STS classmates, Drust is interested in the social impact of science and technology — something that is easy to forget in the largely quantitative field of medicine.
“Everything is about numbers. I’m in it for the human element,” he says. “I put myself in other people’s shoes, and I think that’s an important part of science that’s missing.”
This article originally appeared in the College of Arts and Sciences' Ask magazine feature story, "25 Faces, 25 Years." For more Ask stories, visit askmagazine.org.