Next Level of Health

Dr. Susan McClernon

In the fall of 2015, the College welcomed its first class of Health Services Management (HSM) program Bachelor of Applied Science degree students. Over the course of the school year, the HSM cohort doubled. Clearly, there’s a growing demand for the skill set the program is offering to its students. Sue McClernon, the HSM Faculty Director, took a moment to talk about the program, responding to questions like how the HSM program prepares students to tackle grand challenges and how the internship requirement guarantees students’ problem solving in the real world.


CCAPS: What motivated you to start the HSM program?

SM: When I was a student, I remember searching for something like the HSM program, but it wasn’t there. I had to create my own major. Now, as Faculty Director reviewing Inter-college Plans (ICP), I found that there were still students seeking out this course of study in health care, students wanting to combine health care, business, and leadership. The University of Minnesota already had a lot of classes that would feed into an HSM program, so if I could collaborate across the U, it would be much easier to pull a top-ranked program together. Michelle Koker knew how to navigate the U of M system, and I had the content expertise. Together, along with a great team of U of M staff across the divisions, we were able to pull together a successful proposal and receive approval from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

CCAPS: How is the U of M’s HSM program differentiated from others like it?

SM: We’re different in a few major ways. To start off with, the University of Minnesota is already recognized at the masters and PhD levels for health care management and leadership throughout the country. Being from Minnesota health care, we have an incredible reputation that sets us apart nationally. A key focus is to ensure an “applied” experience for our students in preparing them for being successful in getting employment. The first key we provide is helping our students work through a rigorous internship in the HSM field—an invaluable experience. Another differentiator is our adjunct faculty who only focus on education and are all currently working in the field, bringing 5 to 35 years of experience in the industry to our HSM students. We also created a supportive HSM Industry Advisory Board, which is a breath of fresh air. They’ve been helping us create our mission and vision and the state-of-the-art curriculum for the future—not just where we are now, but where we’re going. We want to develop leaders who will help us transform health care.

CCAPS: Tell us about the growth that the HSM program has seen so far.

SM: We had 32 students in our first cohort in Fall 2015, which exceeded my benchmark of 20. After the second semester, our cohort rose to 72 students in year one, far exceeding my expectations. It’s been amazing, and the students are such high quality. I have already received thank-you cards and e-mails from students telling me how much the HSM Program means to them. They tell me this program is exactly what they were looking for.


CCAPS: How is the HSM program addressing the U of M’s Grand Challenges?

SM: The HSM program seeks to transform health in our communities. We’re teaching students that individual responsibility in health is really important. Just because we have health care systems doesn’t mean we’ve created health. In this sense, there’s a lot of work being done around integrative health and medicine, and that’s one of the Grand Challenges we’re interested in supporting.

Additionally, health has a lot to do with social justice and equitable communities—another Grand Challenge. In health care there are big disparities in the way care is delivered. Our students ask: Why is that? And how can we change it? By asking the questions and weighing the answers, we’ll put our graduates into communities with the leadership objective of making those communities more equitable through health care.

CCAPS: Tell us more about the internship component of the HSM program.

SM: The HSM program is an applied program, so it’s critical that students get out in the world and see all the possible jobs in health systems and health services through their internship. Building mentor relationships is an important piece of that exploration, too. As part of the internship, we require that students help the companies they intern for complete a major challenge project which includes research, findings, conclusions, and offering recommendations. When the students solve a business challenge, value is added for the organization. It’s a win-win for both parties, and the student gets meaningful work experience. Other faculty incorporate applied and real-world case studies and projects that begin connecting them to our regional health care organizations.

CCAPS: What are you most excited for in the coming year?

SM: Seeing our first official HSM graduates! There will be some in December of 2016 and more in the spring of 2017. I’m also looking forward to continued work with our HSM Advisory Board and internship development. We will continue getting the word out about the HSM program. The ultimate goal, of course, is to see students get placed in great jobs. I’m a parent, so I care about introducing students to a profession they love, finding their passion within the field of health care, and getting a job out of it. I know our graduates will make a difference in the workplace and in transforming health. I am so appreciative of the industry support being provided as well as the staff support at the College and across the University of Minnesota.