Lea Johnson says that maybe the quick answer to the question of why American International College has added a graduate program in Health Care Management is because she was getting tired of — and frustrated with — telling people the school didn’t have one.
“And a lot of people were asking,” said Johnson, the school’s dean of the School of Business, noting that one of the recent inquiries, and the one that prompted her to act, came from two occupational therapists from France who knew they needed a graduate degree to advance their careers.
One of them actually came to this country to ask in person, she recalled. “And when I had to turn him away, I thought, ‘this is something I really should reconsider,” she told The Healthcare News, adding quickly that the real motivation for adding a master’s in Business Administration (MBA) concentrated in health care management was the realization that there will many more such phone calls and visits in the future.
“Many people are finding that they’ll need a specialized graduate degree to get to where they want to go, career-wise,” said Johnson, noting that this prevailing sentiment is why the school has made health care one of five concentrations for a new type of program that AIC is calling ‘high-performance MBAs,’ to be rolled out next fall. The others are in Marketing, Operations, Green Business, and International Business.
These are designed for people who have been working in their chosen field for at least five years, said Johnson, adding that these so-called ‘executive MBAs’ are 18-month, 36-credit programs featuring courses that can be taken in the classroom (“on the ground,” as she put it) or online. And they are a part of a broad retooling of MBA programs at AIC, she continued, adding that, beginning this fall, they will come in two flavors — for recent graduates and for those who have in their chosen field for several years.
And they will be highly specialized, because this is trend in higher education today.
Johnson believes there will be strong demand for the offerings, especially the one in health care because it remains one of the strongest employers not only in this region, but across the country and around the world.
“The more we talked to people, the more it became clear that there is a need among people in the field, working in various capacities within the broad realm of health care,” she explained. “They know that, if they want to move up the ladder, they’re going to need an MBA.
“But the traditional MBA, where you just take your 12 courses or 15 courses, is not going to be enough in many cases,” she continued. “It needs to be more specialized.”
And this particular high-performance MBA will be just that, she continued, adding that it will focus on a variety of specific areas, such as information systems, health care marketing, legal issues, general operations, policy issues, ethical dilemmas, and cost containment, among others. There will also be what’s known as a ‘capstone project,’ for which students will take some of the things they’ve learned and apply them back to their work setting.
The information-systems coursework should be one of the many intriguing offerings, she said, adding that technology is changing health care in innumerable ways, putting information in people’s hands more quickly and more efficiently than people could have imagined only a decade ago.
“It’s good to know what’s coming downstream,” she said of technology and what future students in this program will learn about it. “People will need to know if things are applicable to their own settings and if certain types of technology are things management would want to invest in.”
Johnson is expecting perhaps 25 students for the first session of the program, and she said interest could, and probably will, come from across the spectrum of health care employment, from people working in finance and general operations in a hospital setting to those in long-term care, clinical positions such as occupational therapists, and practice managers.
There are similar concentrated graduate programs in most large cities, she said, but, to her knowledge, none in the Greater Springfield area, which is just one region she hopes to serve with the new offerings. Indeed, she anticipates possibly offering the MBAs at sites at various locations across the state.
The new high-performance MBA gives AIC a broad suite of programs designed for those in the health care arena or who desire to enter it. The school also has a four-year degree program in Health Care Management, launched this past fall, as well as what’s known as a graduate-certificate program, a six-course offering, focused on health care, for those who already have a master’s degree or MBA and want to fine-tune their educational work to leave them better-positioned to thrive in the medical field and advance.
The sum of these programs adds up to an opportunity for AIC to become a leader in programs with a health care concentration, said Johnson, and in the meantime, they also free her from having to say ‘no’ when people ask if the school has such programs.
And that’s something she’s been looking forward to.