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Addressing the health care crunch

New MHA degree will educate next-generation leaders in a field with a healthy employment diagnosis.

August 28, 2016

Daniel J Vaccaro

In the next decade, employment in the health care industry is projected to grow 19 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Colorado, the same trend holds true.

“Every hospital is expanding right now,” says Jeremy Stern, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. “Boomers are living longer. Alternative treatments are emerging. New diseases are being diagnosed. Health organizations have never been busier.”

Enter Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Master of Health Administration program, which builds on the long-standing health care management undergraduate degree the school established in 1972. Applications for the program are due by Nov. 4, and classes begin in the spring semester.

“We’ve been helping meet the employment needs of Denver’s health care community for decades,” said Sandra Haynes, dean of the College of Professional Studies. “But we noticed that more and more companies were looking for people with graduate-level training."

As it turned out, students were looking for advanced training as well.

Amy Dore, an associate professor in the Department of Health Professions and alumna of the undergraduate program, says students were vocal about their interest.

“I was asked constantly if we were going to offer a graduate program – by our advisory board, our partners in the industry, but most especially students,” Dore says. “In many ways, students initiated it.”

The MHA curriculum was created with student and alumni input and close collaboration with industry partners, she adds.

Among those students is Todd Van Allen, a health care management major who will graduate in December.

Van Allen is trying to decide whether to apply for the inaugural MHA class or pursue full-time employment with the hope of taking classes once he settles into his career.

He expects the master’s program to reflect the “excellence I have come to count on in the curriculum presented by the doctors and professors. To know that I can continue my education with these very professors ... is worth every consideration.”

With the application deadline fast approaching, Van Allen will need to make his decision soon.

The program was designed with flexibility in mind, to meet students wherever they are in their lives, whether that means going straight from undergraduate to graduate education, changing careers or coming back to school after many years in the field.

Students who take three courses a semester will complete the program in two-and-a-half years. Others can work at their own pace, starting in a fall or spring semester and attending classes online or in a hybrid format. Classes run eight weeks, about half the time of a typical college course, which is intended to be convenient for working adults while also maintaining a sharp focus on the given subject.

An MHA degree is broad by nature, as health care administrators must handle a variety of responsibilities. The program addresses the pertinent issues in the ever-changing health care field, such as big data, so a student can learn how to use large data sets to draw conclusions or make decisions.

Assistant Professor Bobbie Kite says the master’s program meets a specific niche in the health care community.

“In our field there are lots of C-suite jobs and field-level jobs, and for the most part, programs do a good job training people for those,” she says. “But there are also a lot of high-level management and leadership jobs that fall more in the middle. Our program trains students for those.

“They’ll have the skill to excel in the C-suite, if they choose to go that route, but I think many will want a more hands-on role.”

Either way, Kite expects MSU Denver students will make a significant impact on the Denver community.

“Our students will graduate into a field that is growing and changing, in a city that is on the cutting edge of health care reform,” she says. They need the best tools to problem solve and evaluate that field – one that is constantly unfolding in front of them – in order to reach their ultimate goal of helping people.”