By Marcus Chapman
In 1967, Loma Linda University housed the 13th school of public health to be accredited in the nation by the Council on Education of Public Health. Since then, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLUSPH) has adapted to meet the ever-changing landscape of health in individuals, communities, and systems.
One framework in which to consider public health comes from a paper published in 1958 by Sir Geoffrey Vickers, a pioneering systems scientist. In his paper, Sir Vickers argues that public health actions are dictated by “the successful redefinings of the unacceptable.”
In 2020, all of us became more aware of public health. In the media, online, and in private conversations, we were all talking about public health concepts and ideas. In redefining what is unacceptable, the staff, faculty, and students at LLUSPH stepped up to create testing of wastewater for COVID-19 and messaging about proper safety protocols. Later on in the pandemic, when the vaccines became available to the public, the school of public health helped organize the logistics of screening, line management, and dissemination of the available doses.
“Being a school of public health for over 50 years, we find it necessary to continue adapting how we deliver our public health lessons and ensuring those lessons are relevant to current challenges in our systems of health,” said Dr. Karl McCleary, PhD, Associate Dean for Strategy in the Loma Linda University school of public health. “In our school, we’ve been strategic about the way we think of the future, so that we’re always in a position to remain innovative.”
Underlining its commitment to training the future of healthcare professionals and leveraging its position within Loma Linda University Health (eight health-science schools and its new Medical Center, which opened this summer), is LLUSPH’s Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program.
Huma Shah, DrPH, program director for the Master of Healthcare Administration, has been trying to grow a program that meets the requirements of the established MHA degree but also prepares students for the very real problems they are going to face within the business of healthcare.
One way in which the school lives out its mission through the MHA program is through its community partnerships. Organizations such as LLUH, Advent Health, and Adventist Health host residencies and fellowships where students work on relevant and innovative projects. The MHA program also partners with local entities, such as Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), the Riverside Department of Public Health, and San Antonio Community Hospital, located in the Inland Empire of California.
“These partnerships allow our students the opportunity to work on problems in our surrounding communities,” said Shah. “This sort of opportunity provides our communities with resources and also provides our students with the practical experiences that keep our 96% graduate employment rate so high.”
Shah, who recently became a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, has big plans for growing the program. Being accredited, not only by CEPH but by AUPHA and CAHME, not only guarantees a level of quality within the program but also ensures the program stays at the forefront of Healthcare Administration education.
Thomas Melton II, a student in the LLUSPH MHA program who graduated June 2021, was the first student representative from the Inland Empire on the Healthcare Executives (HCE) Student Council. The MHA program is also proud to have the second highest number of student memberships among local colleges and universities within the Healthcare Executives of Southern California.
“Being a student member of the HCE has allowed me to network and collaborate with students of health administration from universities throughout our larger community,” said Melton II. “I am proud to have been the first student representative from the Inland Empire to sit on the HCE Student Council. I am also honored to have had the opportunity to chair the Programming Committee of the HCE Student Council.”
“As the program director, I have seen firsthand the confidence our students gain while going through the program by connecting not only with their own cohort but from other students and professionals through this membership,” said Shah. “Learning is elevated to a higher level where students can begin to make connections with theories and frameworks being introduced in the classroom and seeing how it is applied in the field. In addition, membership participation gives students an opportunity to serve and practice their leadership strengths while gaining mentorship from experienced professionals.”
Most recently, students within the MHA program won first place in the 2021 Healthcare Executives of Southern California Statewide College Bowl. It was an exciting achievement for a small program within a small school of public health and a move toward a larger vision: to be globally recognized in providing excellent, quality healthcare management education with an emphasis on service using a values-based approach to confront healthcare issues.
“We monitor the careers of our alumni for up to three years to ensure they’re getting the jobs they’re prepared for or at least on track to become leaders in the field. We also ensure the quality of our education by referring to accrediting entities such as the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME),” said Shah. “Finally, our program is advised by an Executive Advisory Board made up of C-suite executives currently working in organizations supporting systems of health and making positive changes in the healthcare sector.”
The Master of Healthcare Administration program at LLUSPH can be taken online or on campus; current COVID-19 emergency remote learning protocols apply. The School of Public Health will also be offering a certificate in Healthcare Administration beginning in 2022.