June 19, 2024

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UNCP to launch Master of Healthcare Administration program

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PEMBROKE — Continuing its mission to support critical workforce needs, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will launch a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program.

The university received approval from the UNC System Board of Governors last month to begin offering the new program. The two-year, fully online MHA program is slated to enroll the first cohort in the fall of 2025.

“The program will support the critical need for highly skilled leaders in hospitals, medical practices, long-term care facilities and other healthcare organizations,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, M.D.

“Addressing the health outcomes of our region and state is an ongoing goal of our university, which includes preparing graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of healthcare management,” Cummings said.

A legislatively directed UNC-Chapel Hill Sheps Center health study identified the healthcare workforce needs in southeastern N.C., outlining the professions UNCP is best positioned to address. The study documented UNCP’s primary service region has fewer health professionals per 10,000 people than the state average across each profession studied. In many counties in the region, workforce supply is half the state average.

The study has led to the addition of several health-related degree programs, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which launched in January, a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy scheduled to launch in the fall of 2024, and the recent approval to establish the state’s only public Doctor of Optometry program, which plans to welcome its first class in the fall of 2027.

The study findings also led state legislators, including Rep. Jarrod Lowery, to earmark $20 million for start-up costs associated with new healthcare programs in the most recent state budget, some of which will be housed in the future health professions building expected to open in Fall 2028.

“We’re grateful for the strong support of our legislators—especially our local leaders, Sen. Danny Britt and Reps. Brenden Jones and Lowery—and the confidence they place in our university’s ability to positively influence our region,” Cummings said.

Lowery noted the impact the new health programs would have across southeastern North Carolina.

“As someone who directs public policy, it’s imperative to realize that one big issue in rural North Carolina is insufficient healthcare providers,” Lowery said. “Being able to put UNC Pembroke in a place where it can train more healthcare professionals means the healthcare provided in the local communities will grow and improve.”

Consistent with the study, the university’s MHA program is designed to prepare students to serve the healthcare needs of rural, underserved, and culturally diverse populations. Through a unique course structure, UNCP’s program will be the only program in the UNC System to address this need and the only one to offer a course on administering healthcare facilities during a crisis.

Dr. Eva Skuka, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the MHA program will help students succeed professionally in an ever-evolving U.S. healthcare industry.

“The American healthcare system has become increasingly complex, coupled with rising costs and evolving regulations,” Skuka said. “With that comes the need for leaders who can navigate that complexity, streamline operations, optimize resource allocation, address healthcare disparities and enhance patient experiences by utilizing data-driven approaches and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations.”

The university expects the program’s fully online format to attract professionals, near and far, working in healthcare who want to advance their careers through further development of business management and leadership skills.

UNC Health Southeastern President and CEO Chris Ellington agreed, saying the new program and training offered at the post-graduate level will enhance the knowledge base of those already working in healthcare.

“These types of programs benefit those working in healthcare and the organizations for which they serve in leadership roles,” Ellington said.

The MHA program will be housed under the College of Health Sciences and will consist of 45 credit hours of required coursework. The university will seek accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CHAME). CAHME accreditation signifies that the program meets rigorous standards of excellence in healthcare management education and that graduates are well-prepared to lead in the field.

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