Student interest helps drive new Master of Health Sciences program
By Matt Westerfield
In 2004, the School of Health Related Professions enrolled the first students in Health Sciences, a baccalaureate program designed to promote career advancement for health-care workers and administrative personnel by equipping them with a professional degree.
Six years later, the success of that program has led the way for the Master of Health Sciences Program, which launched its first semester in May.
"It's for working adults," said Dr. Clyde Deschamp, associate professor and chair of General Health Professions. "It's designed to prepare upper-level health-care managers. It picks up where the bachelor's degree leaves off.
"It's also designed to prepare faculty members for health-related academic programs, especially at community colleges."
The program is 36 hours beyond the B.S., and students are encouraged to take two courses or six hours per semester but no more than nine hours. The program now has a total of 29 students enrolled.
Deschamp serves as director of the program, but as many as 11 faculty members share in the teaching workload.
Like Health Sciences, the Master of Health Sciences Program is comprised of two separate tracks: a leadership track and a track that focuses on health informatics. In effect, the new program will represent the advanced degree for both Health Sciences and Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM), also a baccalaureate program.
"Any student who has earned a bachelor's degree and holds a license or a certificate in an appropriate health-care discipline is our target student," Deschamp said.
The program already is seeing heavy interest, with a pool of applicants that includes health-care professionals practicing in respiratory therapy, radiologic sciences, HIIM, and other health-care disciplines. Roughly 30-35 percent of applicants have been from outside the Medical Center campus.
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Deschamp said the move toward a master's program was fueled largely by the interest expressed by students.
"The bachelor's program has been such a tremendous success, and in every graduating class we've had students asking about a master's program. We just decided, if there's that much demand, we're the ones who should offer it," he said.
Many of the incoming master's students are graduates of the Health Sciences program. Aimed at part-time or non-traditional students, all of the program's classes are offered online, with the exception of a weekend orientation session and possibly the capstone presentation, Deschamp said.
The new cohort of students visited campus for orientation in May for two days of activities including presentations on leadership and communication skills.
Dr. Mitzi Norris, who teaches the first-semester Leadership course, gave the new students a crash course in business etiquette. She explained that for health-care professionals to be effective leaders, they have to be able to communicate well with a variety of people.
"It's a whole different skill set clinicians have as opposed to administrative skills and communication skills. For them to be effective leaders, they need to have the whole package," said Norris, director of accreditation in the Office of Academic Affairs.