Josh Conlee, MHSA
What attracted you to the field of public health?
While completing an MBA, I contacted several hospital administrators in town to learn about the field. I met with two, and one offered me an internship. I fell in love with the field while I was there. I asked how I could get into the field and they advised me, “Go get your MHSA.”
What is your current job title and place of employment?
I am an Administrative Fellow for the UAMS Medical Center. The role is designed to be a full-time position to gain insight and experience into how a hospital actually works.
How would you describe a typical work day?
The first two months I rotated though all the hospital areas, spending time with the lab, patient and family centered care, nursing, billing, finance, and operations. I have attended meetings on the budgetary process, I scrubbed up for a day in the OR, and I spent one night shift with the assistant director of nursing, who basically is the “air traffic controller” of hospital. I have weekly meetings with the medical center CEO and regularly shadow the COO. I’ve been drawn into a variety of special projects, some related to the Performance Excellence quality improvement initiative at UAMS. My projects have involved clinical areas, patient complaints, and assisting with revenue modeling.
What is your advice for students considering a similar career path?
The MBA definitely was helpful, but if you want to go into health services administration, I strongly recommend getting an MHSA. The MBA gave me an advantage with its emphasis on finance and health economics as well as the case-driven IT courses that were part of it. Everything in the MHSA program has a health care slant that you don’t get with the MBA. This is extremely helpful.
Get out there and meet people! Health care administration is a small field – everyone knows everyone. Once you make a contact, keep it. Networking is vital. Don’t be afraid! Everyone wants you to succeed. It helps to have good professional and interpersonal skills, as well as, presentation skills.
Take advantage of shadowing or internships at any area hospital or healthcare facility – whichever ones will have you – to get that on-the-job experience. Get out there and get your hands dirty.
What experiences or learning gained at UAMS or elsewhere have you found most beneficial professionally or helped you qualify for what you do?
The MHSA program does what it is meant to do – it teaches you about health care administration. The program also does a great job of finding you a mentor and helping you get real-world experience. My mentor is a senior VP [of a large hospital in Little Rock]. I met with him regularly through school and through the job search process. He has been tremendous as a mentor and has helped me immensely. We still keep in touch.
The MHSA program also does a great job placing you in a graduate assistant position to get experience. Getting that experience is invaluable. One of my assistantships was with the Center for Rural Health Rural Hospital Program. I was able to meet health care professionals from all over the state as I traveled the state with my preceptor. I also was a graduate assistant at a 170-bed hospital where I shadowed the CEO and worked on several projects.
What do you find most rewarding about your work in public health?
My first career goal was to be a veterinarian because I wanted to help people and animals. I majored in biology. In the field I am in now, I’ll get to make decisions that help an entire hospital, population or the entire state. I like people and want to help them. The relationships that I have built are also very rewarding. Health services administration is very exciting – that is an understatement! Things are never dull. It is a field that will always be changing, and I look forward to a meaningful career in the field.