New cross-campus partnership aims to fill growing need for health administrators

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A new, interdisciplinary collaboration at Western Michigan University will prepare graduates for high-demand jobs in health care. The undergraduate health administration program allows students to tap into the expertise of faculty in both the College of Health and Human Services and Haworth College of Business, as well as other units on campus.

"We're excited to offer this new opportunity to put Western students in a position to hit the ground running in a fast-growing field," says Dr. Jessica Cataldo, faculty specialist in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs and director of the new program.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 32% job growth for medical and health service managers by 2030. Graduates of Western's program will be well-prepared to meet the need for office administrators, compliance specialists, program coordinators and other leadership roles in a variety of settings, from hospitals to nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, home health services, community relief services and much more.

"The pandemic has shown us that effective and efficient administration is key in health care," adds Dr. Devrim Yaman, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Haworth College of Business. "In these uncertain times, our new health administration degree is an opportunity for WMU to contribute to the health and well-being of the individuals in our community. The new degree will also enhance the career opportunities for our graduates."

An advisory council of health and business leaders provided "invaluable feedback," says Yaman, in helping to design the new undergraduate program. In addition to interdisciplinary coursework, all students will complete an internship and have the opportunity to participate in a number of experiential-learning activities.

It's an ideal program for students like Elise VanSparrentak, who is interested in health care and interacting with patients but doesn't want to pursue the clinical side of the field. She's had a taste of it working in a chiropractic office for the past few years while she completed her associate's degree in general business.

"I started to learn how to take X-rays and do patient history, and little by little I would do more with actual health care. And it was super fun; I really liked it," she says. "Then I saw Western had a program and it was the perfect fit."

Cataldo says the program's goal is to build and expand partnerships with the community.

"We're really looking to create opportunities to get students involved in our local community and, hopefully, to stay here and develop them into professionals within southwest Michigan as well," she says.

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