The Business of Medicine AIC Adds Four-year Degree Program Focused on Health Care Management, Marketing

Leah Johnson described it as a quick, simple experiment — one that yielded the kind of results she anticipated but needed to confirm.

Johnson, the recently named associate dean of the School of Business Administration at American International College, visitied monster.com, punched in ‘health care management,’ and then ‘health care marketing,’ and was offered too many choices to list. Just the first page had a number of intriguing options with titles ranging from ‘director of marketing communications’ to ‘vendor relations manager’; from ‘community outreach coordinator’ to ‘marketing liaison’; from ‘supervisor, patient accounts’ to ‘associate director, Persistency Programs, sales and marketing liaison.’

The purpose of the exercise was to show the breadth and depth of job opportunities in health care, even in these challenging times, said Johnson, and also to show the motivation for a new degree program at the college, which focuses on both health care management and health care marketing.

This is a four-year degree that will position graduates for those various positions listed earlier and myriad others, said Johnson, who told The Healthcare News that the program is a collaborative effort, if you will, between AIC’s Business and Health Science departments. It’s been several months in the making, and will make its official debut in the spring, with several students who will transfer into it from other departments.

A larger, better response is expected for next fall, after the college has done some extensive, targeted marketing, said John Rogers, dean of the School of Business, who told The Healthcare News that this is the first program of its kind in the region, and he expects considerable interest in it.

Textbook Example

Johnson told The Healthcare News that there are many people who aspire to work in health care, but don’t have the inclination to be a doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, or other professional directly involved with patient care.

And it is with such people in mind that AIC created its new program, she continued, adding that initial talks began about a year ago, and greatly intensified after she arrived on the Springfield campus in September to assume the newly created position of associate dean for the business school. Bringing the new degree program from the drawing board to realty has been one of the items at the top of her ‘in’ box.

And if she has a particular enthusiasm for this new offering, that’s understandable, because her career, which has blended business and health care in many ways, is living proof of the new program’s relevancy.

Before arriving at AIC, Johnson spent 10 years at Northeastern University, six as assistant dean of Nursing and the other four as a division director for Health & Life Sciences. She also ran that school’s Health Care Leadership and Professional Development Institute.

Originally an RN, Johnson shifted into health care marketing years ago, and handled several jobs in that realm before shifting again into education. She said the AIC position enables her to incorporate experiences and lessons from each stop on her resume.

“I had recently finished my doctorate and was looking anew,” she explained. “This looked like a great opportunity.”

She said some of her strengths are program development, management, and marketing, and the new offering will test all those skills.

The initial idea for the new program came from administrators within the School of Health Sciences, said Johnson, who saw a critical, and largely unmet, need for a program that would better-prepare individuals for non-clinical careers in health care — and there are many.

Those administrators approached colleagues in the School of Business, she continued, adding that programs at other schools were researched as part of the process of creating something unique but that addresses stated goals.

“The students will have the technical training in health sciences through those departments, but we’ll provide the business training,” said Rogers, who, like Johnson, said students currently enrolled in the new program — like those to follow — have interests in both health care and business.

“The first five to enroll thought they were interested in physical therapy and nursing,” said Johnson, “But they decided that they’d rather work in business.”

Students enrolled in the program will take six management courses, another in Gerontology, and one that provides a history of the American health care system, among others. Students will also be expected to participate in an internship program to gain some hands-on experience, said Rogers, noting that business students in the school have been involved in such internships for many years now.

Overall, both Johnson and Rogers see no shortage of opportunities for graduates of the new program — for the long term, at least.

The current economic downturn has forced some health care providers to pare staff, particularly in non-clinical areas, but there are still plenty of positions on the market — and some systems have struggled to fill them.

“There was a hospital on the North Shore that spent more than a year trying to find someone who knew enough about health care and had business skills to be an administrative director of women’s health and pediatrics,” she said. “They did an extensive search for such an individual; the business skills were crucial, and many people had them — the question was, ‘did they know anything about health care?’”

And down the road, of course, the prospects look considerably brighter, said Rogers, noting that, as the population ages, demand for health care services will increase, and there will be constant and considerable demand for people who can effectively manage and market the providers of such services.

AIC’s Curriculum Committee gave the go-ahead for the new degree program in November, said Johnson, adding that there are still some details to be worked out. One of them is creating advisory boards for both aspects of the degree program — health care management and health care marketing.

Such advisors will help ensure that what students are learning and doing in the classroom and during internships will help prepare them for — and thrive in — positions like those listed on monster.com.

Degree of Progress

Positions, that is, like ‘associate director, Persistency programs, sales and maketing liaison.’

There are many jobs with similar responsibilities, and probably different tiles, said Johnson, adding that new degree program at AIC will put such opportunities within reach for its students.

“These are fields that are growing,” said Johnson, “not fields that are in decline.”

Comments are closed.