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Exciting Year Ahead for the UAMS Master of Health Administration Program

C O P H Master of Health Administration ( M H A ) students at ConvocationThe 2014-15 year for the Master of Health Administration (MHA) program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is shaping up to be memorable. The cohort of incoming students is one of the largest in the history of the program. In addition, five of the six core faculty are relative newcomers, filling the shoes of many of the founding faculty who launched the program more than a quarter century ago at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), before its move to UAMS in 2005.

The UAMS MHA program is Arkansas’ only program accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). In fact, the program has been accredited since its inception at UALR, with its next reaccreditation coming in 2015. In preparation, the MHA Program will complete a full program review and self-study. Reaccreditation helps assure the quality of the program, and students greatly benefit from earning degrees at a CAHME-accredited institution.

The program leaders are gearing up for the challenge and have embraced a continuous quality improvement mentality – consistent with the health care industry.

“We have an opportunity with the Affordable Care Act and health care reform to reimagine what the program can be to best meet the needs of health care employers,” said Stephen Bowman, PhD, MHA, who is the UAMS MHA Program Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.

By national standards, the program is considered one of the smaller of the 80 or so CAHME-accredited MHA programs in the country. This year’s freshman class of 14 full-time and three part-time students brings the entire enrollment count to 33, the largest in more than 20 years, according to Rick Ault, MHSA, an alumni of the program and now its Associate Director.

“What really distinguishes our program is the support we provide to students in the form of advising and one-on-one time with the faculty,” Mr. Ault said. “Our engagement with students and personal attention to them is second to none.”

That personalized attention could be one reason why the job placement rate of the program is more than 10 percent higher than the 80 percent target required by CAHME for accreditation.

“Over the years, 90 to 92 percent of our students find a job within 90 days of graduation,” Mr. Ault said.

The program prepares students for a diversity of administrative and management roles in health care, including hospital administration, medical group management, health care finance, human resource management, strategic planning and marketing, and health policy.

Classroom learning is complemented by experiential learning opportunities which help prepare students for the real world. The program has an active MHA Student Association, with Dr. Saleema Karim serving as faculty advisor. Luncheons with administrators and senior leaders provide students with opportunities to interact with the C-suite and learn directly from these influential professionals.

“Under the guidance of Dr. Karim, the MHA Student Association is on a roll with exciting plans for the coming year,” Mr. Ault said.

Also planned this year are activities to bring together students who are at different stages in the program. With the diversity of backgrounds represented, networking within the program provides plenty of benefit as students learn from one another.

“We have students from many majors, including business, science, the liberal arts and political science, as well as speech and kinesiology,” Mr. Ault said. “To make sure the students have ample opportunity to interact with one another, we have social events and professional development opportunities to enhance their experience while at UAMS.”

Health leaders at UAMS and in the community also serve as adjunct faculty, guest lecturers and preceptors for students completing summer residencies. In fact, the summer residencies have proven to be “a win-win for students and prospective employers,” Dr. Bowman said. “The students get to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world problems, and employers can test fit these individuals for potential permanent positions upon graduation.”

Mr. Ault, who took the lead last year for student recruitment, says that what’s behind this being a banner year for new recruits is “not rocket science,” but simply a matter of “getting the message out to lots of campuses and students” that the UAMS MHA program has a great deal to offer anyone interested in a career in health administration.  He added that, “We also endeavor to stay engaged with potential students during the application process.” For more information, visit  http://publichealth.uams.edu/academics/masters/msha/.