The UAB Master of Science in Health Administration (MSHA) is the highest-ranked program in the nation, according to the latest rankings by the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Grad Schools in Health Care Management."
UAB's MSHA program has steadily moved up in the national rankings throughout the past decade, advancing from #7 in 2009, #5 in 2011, to #2 in 2015, and #1 today. The U.S. News & World Report rankings are based on surveys sent to peers at accredited degree programs.
"There are a lot of factors that led to us being a top program," says Amy Landry, PhD, program director and alumna of the UAB MSHA program. "We have an excellent faculty and staff, we admit incredible students, and we have an involved alumni association. But what differentiates us from other programs in the country is our emphasis on experiencial learning."
UAB's MSHA program offers two tracks - a residential master's program, which is more of a traditional graduate program, and an executive program that is targeted toward working professionals. Students who apply for the program go through a challenging admissions process. "Once enrolled, our residential program requires that all first-year students have a job at UAB Health Systems," Landry says. "They work in various areas of the system from hospital operations to corporate strategy, for example, so they actually have an opportunity to work in their first year."
Each year, the residential program admits around 30 students. They go through the program together, so they get to know each other well. "We view it as their first professional network. When we select these cohorts, we look to admit a diverse group of applicants," Landry says. "We want students with a diversity of experiences from different regions of the country and people who have experience in different areas of health care. When these students are together, there is a lot of peer-to-peer learning in the classroom."
The executive program admits a cohort of 25 to 30 students each year. These students have at least five years of experience and currently work in the health care field. "In these cohorts, we have physicians, nurse leaders, clinical leaders, and people from a variety or different kinds of health care organizations. They work in areas that include health care technology, hospitals, and long-term care, to name a few. These groups also provide peer-to-peer learning during the time they are on campus," Landry says.
Another valuable learning opportunity afforded by the UAB MSHA program is participation in its MSHA Case Competition. The competition, now in its 13th year, was started at UAB and gives students opportunities to learn from experience. The students are presented with a real-world case from a health care organization, and the teams compete against one another. A panel of judges who are experts in their fields select a winner.
"When we hosted the competition the first time, it was so transformational for our students that we decided it was something we wanted to provide at a national level. We want to allow other MSHA students around the country to compete," Landry says.
This year, UAB MSHA hosted 42 teams from other accredited MSHA programs from around the country. "The Case Competition has raised the profile of our program, in my opinion, and it demonstrates our commitment to elevate the field on a national level," Landry adds. "We think our students are great, and we want them to go out and do great things that will change the face of health care leadership in this country."
The UAB MSHA program also benefits from an active faculty. Long-time faculty member Howard Houser, now emeritus, helped found the program and is still involved. In addition, faculty members travel around the country and meet with students who are completing residency opportunities, their preceptors, or their supervisors.
"When these faculty members talk to healthcare leaders around the country, they ask them what we can do to improve our program and and how we can better prepare our students to make a difference. Based on their feedback, we identify ways to enhance the program," Landry says. "We will continue to build on the success we have enjoyed over the past years by striving to admit the best students and to maintain a great faculty. We will continue to get our students involved with the practice community, current leaders, and our alumni base. That is where we see a big difference in the success of our students."