New GCU Doctoral Program Emphasizes Health Care Leadership

October 01, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau

A doctoral program in organizational leadership that will train health care administrators to better steer through the choppy waters of health issues facing baby boomers and the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act — a significant part of which takes effect today — has been launched at Grand Canyon University.

The emphasis in health care administration in the Ed.D. in organizational leadership is designed to develop a student’s ability to generate and apply new knowledge to build organizations that enable those inside to reach their full potential. The first group of learners started their coursework in September. The new program brings to seven the number of emphases currently offered for the Ed.D. in organizational leadership in GCU’s College of Doctoral Studies. 

Dr. Wayne Schmidt, content chair for the College of Doctoral Studies: "Nothing's changing faster than the health care profession."

Dr. Wayne Schmidt, content chair for the College of Doctoral Studies: “Nothing’s changing faster than the health care profession…. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, policymakers, insurers and medical groups have to do things differently than they did five years ago. “

“Nothing’s changing faster than the health care profession, and if you can navigate an organization through that, you – and it – will be fine,” said Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the college’s content chair.

The curriculum is designed for health care leaders wanting to advance their skills and knowledge of health care policies, oversight and governance, and move up the career ladder to advanced roles in hospitals, clinics, managed-care organizations and public-health agencies.

It could not have come at a better time for Teri Taggart, program director of the School of Nuclear Medicine Technology at Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich.

Taggart, 47, learned about the program earlier this year after obtaining from GCU a master’s in health care administration, a degree that was required by her employer. As part of a job offer, she had been given a year from the time she accepted the new position in July 2012 to obtain a master’s.

After extensive research into available programs, she determined that only GCU could help her with that fast track.

“I really wanted that job, and I had to get my degree within a year,” she said. “What drew me to GCU is that it was an established school, grounded in a solid curriculum and with very strong standards and high student involvement and achievement levels. When I contacted GCU, they were so helpful. I was instantly welcomed, and GCU worked diligently to get me enrolled. I was offered the job on a Sunday night and started classes the following Wednesday.”

Taggart, who never before had taken an online course, found the professors accessible and dedicated to student success.

“It wasn’t like I was there in a 300-student lecture hall or the professor was a talking head who didn’t care if the students got the material or not,” she said. “I found that the spark inside of me was relit after 26 years of a being in the same job. I felt invigorated again and enthusiastic about my field.”

As she was wrapping up the master’s, Taggart discovered that she didn’t want to stop learning.

“I almost felt let down, like, ‘Oh great, what am I going to do now?’” she said. “And I thought about how the Affordable Care Act is going to start filtering down, and we’ll need people who can figure out how the mandates are going to be accomplished. Maybe I could learn a few things to help my corner of the universe.”

Taggart found out about the new doctoral emphasis in late August and — again with GCU’s assistance — she was able to quickly enroll and begin classes on Sept. 5. She plans to graduate in 2016.

“This degree will give me opportunities to interact with professionals in leadership, people with whom I normally wouldn’t interact,” she said. “I’m still young enough to put my experience to work for me in these executive situations and, down the road, with many executives in the health care industry retiring, I believe my degree will help me to step right in.”

Schmidt said the new program will take an average of three years to complete, and it intentionally has a flexible curriculum, comprising core courses and specific emphases that will enable it to adapt to changes in the industry. Students first are required to take four eight-week core courses in research, leadership and ethics before starting the new health care administration courses.

  The five new courses are:

  • Structures and Governance in Health Care, an overview of public, private, nonprofit, and for-profit structures and their connections with leadership
  • Health Care Regulation, an examination of state, medical and professional boards, the federal government and other regulators in the health-care industry, as well as organizational, self,  mandatory and voluntary regulation
  • Professional Development and Leadership in Health Care, an exploration of the connection between leadership and professional development, focusing on helping employees achieve their potential, and creating a culture of shared values and ownership to promote excellence
  • Building a Culture of Community in Health Care, a review of strategies such as systems thinking and interprofessional teaming for building collaboration in an organization
  • Sustainability of Health Care Organizations, an analysis of the impact of continuous improvement on organizations and the promotion of change and innovation

Dr. Anne McNamara, dean and professor of nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, has served on numerous health care boards and seen the need for such an emphasis. “The need for leadership will only get greater as the health care landscape unfolds,” McNamara said.

Added Schmidt: “We have to develop sustainable models of health care. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, policymakers, insurers and medical groups have to do things differently than they did five years ago. They have to adapt to the changing health care environment because it’s changing by the minute.”

Taggart will have no trouble keeping up.

“I believe it’s almost serendipitous the way this has all transpired,” she said. “I’m getting the fruits of my labor for the last 30 years of my career, and I’m looking forward to whatever this new adventure gives to me.”

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or [email protected].

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