Health Administration Students Learn About Job Options Beyond Hospital CEO

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Rachel Totaram, left, and Jackie Le, right, are two second-year graduate students in the master’s of health administration program at UCF.There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to jobs in health care administration.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to jobs in health care administration.

“I thought of a manager, the receptionist sitting at the front desk,” said Jackie Le, a second-year student in the master’s of health administration program at UCF. “I thought it was for the people greeting at the door.”

“I was told that this would get me into the executive offices,” said Rachel Totaram, another second-year student.

But Le and Totaram, two of 240 students in the largest program of its kind in the nation, have had their viewpoints expanded and developed through the master’s degree program.

The program’s staff and faculty have been working hard to clarify any misconceptions people have about health care administration, said Kourtney Nieves, MHA program director.

Previously, the degree program was named Master of Science in Health Sciences, Health Services Administration Track. In May, the program was renamed Master of Health Administration.

Faculty members with years of health care experience in a wide range of positions and facilities also help to bring the field into the classroom for students. Many teach students that they can go many different directions in the field, such as insurance companies, long-term care facilities, consulting firms and pharmaceuticals.

“It really brings the textbooks to life,” Nieves said. “So it’s not just ‘The textbook says this,’ but it’s more ‘The textbook says this, but this is how it plays out in the industry.’”

Students like Le discover their passion to success in the health care field beyond becoming a doctor or a CEO, thanks to the teaching of professors who want to expand students’ perceptions of the field.

“If you asked me my first semester what I wanted to do, I would just tell you I want to be in health care, but I don’t know where,” Le said, who desires to work in health care operations. “I like the nuts and bolts of healthcare and how all that works together.

Shannon Elswick, a faculty member and senior vice president of Leading Edge Healthcare, is adamant about opening student’s minds to the many possibilities within the field.

“I always start my [first] class by asking what they want to be when they grow up,” he said. “And there are plenty of students who want to be CEO of a hospital. And I’m quick to tell them that [a graduate degree] in health care administration does not buy them a CEO position.”

While Le, who studied health sciences pre-clinical as an UCF undergraduate student, never envisioned herself as the CEO of a hospital, she wasn’t sure what to expect when she entered the program.

Now, a few months prior to graduation, she is glad that she decided to pursue her master’s degree.

“This field that I thought was very narrow and dry-cut is now very broad,” Le said. “I realized that there is a marketing aspect, a quality control aspect, a financial aspect.”

Le even began telling other people about her coursework, including Totaram, who studied biology and psychology as an undergraduate student and was trying to figure out her next step.

“I just didn’t want to go to medical school; that’s not where my passion lies,” said the second year student, who will graduate next spring.

Since entering the program, Totaram has discovered a newfound passion for working with people and building stronger relationships, in part, thanks to her professors. She has also been a straight-A student during the program.

“I want to read the chapters; I believe what I’m reading about,” Totaram said. “And the professors don’t teach out of the textbook; they tell you real life things that will happen to you in the field of health care administration.”

Totaram plans to work in the quality and financial side of healthcare and is grateful to have been part of the program at UCF.

“This program opens an incredible amount of pathways for students and they just have to take that key and unlock it themselves,” she said.

Written by Drexler B. James ‘13

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