Diversifying our Department’s Portfolio

There’s an old adage in finance: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

And as a finance person at the helm of an academic health administration department, I realized early that to grow and enhance our student and faculty experience, we must offer more than a single product.

Healthcare has changed over the last 20 years — in delivery, in access, in specializations, and in how we pay for all this — and so should the education that supports the field. Students today have high expectations and varied interests, and employers are searching for depth in the candidates they hire.

At VCU Health Administration, our goal is to produce students who are well-rounded and to supply them with the mechanisms they demand to pursue their own interests within the healthcare field throughout their career.

It’s why we’ve introduced three new certificate programs that dive deeper on issues around aging, health equity, and healthcare finance. While our primary MHA and MSHA curricula touch on aspects of these topics, the certificate programs go further and are open to anyone who meets the entry qualifications, not just our students. Read more about them in this newsletter and on our website.

We have placed a refreshed focus on research and are excited to see Adam Atherly, Ph.D., get to work as a new faculty member. He’s been part of groundbreaking and nationally-funded research around Medicare and private health insurance, and he will serve as a mentor to our faculty and help build our externally-funded research portfolio.

We’ve also restructured our MSHA program in a way that helps current full-time clinicians and healthcare professionals who attend the program on a part-time basis. What was once a largely non-stop semester from summer to the winter has taken on a more traditional semester format. There’s still an on-campus component, but we’ve reduced the time commitment in a way that offers more flexibility while maintaining the value of team building and networking in person.

You can also see the results of our efforts to make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a central tenet in our mission, knowing that leaders and clinicians who share backgrounds with their patients help reduce health disparities and improve the patient experience. Our MHA students are part of the most diverse class ever, which allows students to learn from one another’s perspectives.

To borrow another term in finance: By diversifying our portfolio of offerings, we’re adding to the foundation we have already built. Like any investment, there is risk, and we can’t assume everything we try will succeed. But that’s what an investment is: the pursuit of a payoff that, for us, creates value in the form of an enhanced student and faculty experience.

Paula Song signature

— Paula H Song, Ph.D | Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor | VCU Department of Health Administration

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