(COLLEGE STATION, TX) The Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health Master of Health Administration (M.H.A.) program recently earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. The program is one of only seven in the state to be accredited and among the youngest ever to be accredited by the CAHME.

The M.H.A. is a professional degree for students pursuing management careers in a number of health service-related settings, such as hospitals, physician offices and group practices, managed care organizations, insurers, and other organizations that supply or support public or private health service organizations. The program’s mission is to develop effective health care managers and leaders and to advance the health of all populations, especially rural and underserved communities.

Based in the Department of Health Policy and Management, the school’s M.H.A. program went through an extensive multi-year evaluation process including a site visit by CAHME reviewers. The result of the process accredited the program “with no portions of the quality standards being unmet.”

“This was by far the best site visit I can remember,” said Christopher Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the M.H.A. program, who has observed similar accreditation processes.

Ciro Sumaya, M.D., M.P.H.T.M., founding dean of the HSC-SRPH, said: “This accreditation attests to the quality of the M.H.A. degree program, thereby expanding prospective student interest, hospital and clinic sites for student experiences, and even future employment contacts and opportunities.”

HSC-SRPH officials said program accreditation brings many advantages to students pursuing the M.H.A. degree, such as the opportunity for students to compete for post-graduate fellowships and residencies in leading health systems for which only accredited programs may apply; an increase in the number of applicants to the M.H.A. program; and identification of the program as measuring up to quality standards established by a commission comprised of health administration trade associates, academic leaders and other leaders in the health care sector.

Dr. Johnson said the program has been successful in preparing effective leaders in health care management.

“Two of our young M.H.A. alums under the age of 30 are already CEOs of rural hospitals in Texas,” Dr. Johnson said. “In addition, many other M.H.A. alums are in upper-level management positions with St. Joseph Health System, The Med and Scott & White in Bryan-College Station and Temple. Many others are managers in large health systems in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, and others hold administrative positions elsewhere from Hawaii to the New York Presbyterian Health System in Manhattan.”

Larry Gamm, Ph.D., professor and head of health policy and management, credits many of the faculty in the program’s success.

“In addition to Dr. Johnson and others, James Alexander, Ph.D., has been a valuable practice-experienced professor and internship coordinator who has helped construct strong relationships with many rural health systems and others that have provided summer internships and year-long administrative residencies for many of our students,” Dr. Gamm said. “Our alums and our M.H.A. Professional Advisory Committee, too, can claim a lot of the credit for the M.H.A.’s accreditation and continued success we have had. Together, we continue to attract and graduate excellent people from our M.H.A. program who make a difference.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its seven colleges located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell