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Students becoming next generation of innovative healthcare leaders in ATSU’s Doctor of Health Administration program

ATSU-CGHS Doctor of Health Administration graduates at commencement in June 2022.

As the next generation of healthcare leaders, students in the A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies’ (ATSU-CGHS) Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) program learn the essential skills to improve and influence healthcare administration systems through fully online, theoretical, and practical coursework.

“Our DHA is a phenomenal program because the curriculum is designed around what is currently happening in the industry. Our adjunct professors, many of whom have their boots in the mud in the industry, are those that write the course and actually teach the course. They have a unique perspective, and they really bring what they’re seeing from the industry into the classroom,” said Robert Clegg, PhD, MPH, MCHES, and chair of ATSU-CGHS’ Health Administration programs.

Most DHA students are working professionals, and the program is specifically tailored for individuals in upper or middle healthcare management. Students are also required to have a master’s degree or higher from an accredited program.

As a highly flexible online program, students have the ability to continue their professional careers while pursuing their doctorates.

“I think because of the nature of our student body, I’d say 99% are working in the industry…Rather than just focus on the curriculum and ask questions, we have our discussion forums as well. There are some really amazing didactic discussions that go on in these forums,” Dr. Clegg said. 

Because so many students are working professionals, Dr. Clegg said they take their own knowledge from their workplaces and apply it to the curriculum. Many students use their job experiences to develop more robust ideas that they can bounce off their peers. 

Career paths after graduation from this program can include work in the healthcare field or academic field. Graduates are prepared to enter qualified roles as executive-level managers of hospital systems, healthcare consultants, medical directors, or healthcare insurance administrators. Other career opportunities include positions in academic leadership or military administration.

ATSU-CGHS’ DHA curriculum consists of 14 core courses and a dissertation, and all courses are Quality Matters Certified. During their dissertation, students work with a mentor from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), which provides mentorship from industry professionals who are leaders in their fields.

ATSU-CGHS also offers a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree, which Dr. Clegg oversees as well. MHA students may choose the traditional track or have the options of pursuing either the Digital Health specialty track or the Quality and Patient Safety track. Graduates of this program may transfer up to 15 credits towards the DHA degree, and many DHA classes have MHA students enrolled as well, which leads to a lot of student collaboration, Dr. Clegg said.

“I think that the unique blending of doctoral level and master’s level students together provides a real synergy there because they can actually learn from one another,” he added. 

The DHA program’s curriculum focuses heavily on carrying out the University’s mission to be a leading innovator in health professions education while serving underserved populations, and courses are developed around the National Center for Healthcare Leadership’s (NCHL) leadership competencies

“We want leaders to have an understanding of the social determinants of health…there are areas that you’re going to work in with communities that are considered food deserts, and don’t have access to proper care, like prenatal care, or preventive care. Things like that are so important for a population, so there’s a big focus in our curriculum on these issues,” Dr. Clegg said.

Although the program is challenging, Dr. Clegg encourages his students to push themselves.

“When they say that higher education is priceless, it truly is. You can be knocked down numerous times, but you’ve still got that degree under your belt that you should be proud of,” he said.


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