Professor with passion for policy and teaching to lead MHA/MSHA programs

2022 AUPHA honoree joins VCU Health Administration faculty July 1

Paige PowellThis summer, The University of Memphis’ Paige Powell, Ph.D., MHA will move east to join VCU Health Administration as associate professor and program director of the MHA and MSHA programs.

It’s a move that takes Powell, whose healthcare leadership journey began during the Clinton-era reforms of the nation’s healthcare system, from Tennessee to Richmond. Beyond leading the nationally ranked MHA and MSHA programs, Powell’s vision at VCU is to give students greater exposure to extracurricular opportunities, work hand-in-hand with department leaders to improve DEI initiatives, and maintain the university’s prominence in health administration education.

“I've always loved learning. And I think I always knew in some way that I wanted to be a teacher,” says Powell, who also obtained both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in health administration at UofM before earning her Ph.D. in health policy and administration from Penn State. “I’ve always liked looking at ways to help people through policy, whether it's expanding access to care, or looking at how to make healthcare more patient centered. That’s the approach I want to pass on to students.”

She has served on the faculty at UofM’s School of Public Health since 2013, and was named MHA program director there in 2018. During her time in Memphis, the MHA program was reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), and Powell also helped launch an online-only executive MHA degree, designed for the mid-careerist.

For her contributions to the field, Powell was awarded the John D. Thompson Prize from the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) this year. The prizes honors faculty based on their overall contributions to the field of health administration (she will be recognized on June 9 at the AUPHA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City). VCU Health Administration professor Daniel Lee, Ph.D and department chair Paula Song, Ph.D are previous recipients of the John D. Thompson Prize.

Powell has a passion for student case competitions, particularly the national ones hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the National Association of Health Services Executives. In a case competition, students from competing MHA programs receive the same case study and develop a strategic and financial solution based on a set of deliverables. “That's something I've done here at Memphis that's really increased our visibility and something I look forward to continuing at VCU,” she says.

Memphis MHA teams have placed in the semi-finals in national case competitions three times in recent years. “We were seen as coming out of nowhere to perform well, so I know the caliber of students that VCU recruits would be excellent contenders,” she says. “VCU does participate in case competitions, and I’d like to ramp it up even more.” (In the UAB’s inaugural 2007 competition, VCU placed first and has been a semi-finalist and received honorable mentions in subsequent competitions. In 2020, VCU students advanced to the final round of the NAHSE student case competition).

She notes that Memphis, like Richmond, is a diverse city, with a majority of the population from underrepresented groups who face issues with access to quality healthcare. It’s a reason she says addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion is so critical at the leadership level.

“The entire VCU College of Health Professions, and especially the Department of Health Administration, is really putting a concerted effort into increasing DEI,” she says. “We need more leaders who understand that the value of diversity and inclusion can both address workforce shortages and reduce health disparities and improve the patient experience.”

Paula H. Song, Ph.D, the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor of VCU Health Administration, said Powell’s experience and passion for health policy and leadership made her a standout candidate for the MHA/MSHA program director role.

“Dr. Powell is joining VCU at such a critical time for healthcare and our program as we make DEI a priority both in our academic culture and within the industry,” she says. “We know her talents and experience will help continue strengthening our masters programs and support our students to be inclusive healthcare leaders who are ready to address and support the healthcare needs of the communities they serve.”

And Powell — whose move also brings her closer to her parents and family in Raleigh, N.C. — is honored to step into the role.

“I feel really proud of how I've helped Memphis to grow,” she says. “And I believe that I can bring a lot of those same skills and initiatives to VCU to help them be even better.”

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