June 21, 2024

The only MHA degree program to be delivered jointly by a business school and a medical school, the Dartmouth MHA prepares students to develop, plan, and lead operations and services within health care facilities and across health care systems, including hospitals, clinics, consulting firms, pharma, health IT, and policy. The MHA is designed for early- and mid-career professionals who aspire to a career in health care management.

Associate Dean for Health Care Management Education Katherine Milligan D’90, T’70 is founding director of both the MHCDS and the MHA programs at Dartmouth. An adjunct professor at Tuck, she teaches the MHCDS Action-Learning Project.

Delivered in a flexible hybrid format with both residential and online learning components, the program is preparing to welcome its first cohort of students to campus at the end of June. Katherine Milligan D’90, T’07, associate dean for Health Care Management Education, says the incoming students come from all walks of life, from a former nurse in a Nebraskan organ transplant unit to a Health IT implementation manager from Massachusetts. 

“We recruit and admit outstanding students from all backgrounds and support their ability to thrive,” says Milligan. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more about their goals and aspirations and watching their growth over the coming months.”

As the MHA gears up, we sat down with Milligan to learn more about the program and why this is a critical moment in time for the health care industry. 

What’s the vision for the MHA program?
Our foundational vision is built on three key elements: innovation, accessibility, and transformation. We aim to deliver an innovative educational experience that changes the way our students think about and approach health care management. The program is designed to be cutting-edge, incorporating the latest insights and research from the fields of medicine and business. We’re focused on developing essential skills in our graduates, such as leadership, communication, and operational efficiency—all crucial for successfully navigating both traditional and emerging health care environments.

Bottomline: We’re looking to equip the next generation of health care leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to innovate in order to meaningfully improve the quality, value, and equity of health care in the populations that they serve.

Why does the world need this program? What challenge is it trying to solve?
We are acutely aware of the issues plaguing health care today, from workforce shortages and rising costs to quality concerns. Our program is specifically designed to provide students with the tools to address these challenges head-on. By integrating rigorous academic training with real-world applications, we prepare students to make substantial improvements in health care delivery. For instance, our coursework addresses systemic problems like quality management and health care economics, which we hope inspires students to develop innovative solutions that are both effective and sustainable.

Dean Matthew Slaughter says often: “The world needs more Tuck.” In this case, the world needs more Tuck and Geisel. The world needs the kind of engaged, well-informed, accomplished leaders these institutions create—these leaders are going to be the ones who drive real change in health care delivery. 

Can you share more about the curriculum and specific course topics you’re excited about?
Leadership touches all coursework in the program. Our course offerings are quite robust. Quality Measurement and Improvement taught by Carol Barsky focuses on the methodologies to assess and enhance health care quality, a critical aspect given today’s focus on outcomes. Leadership, taught by Adam Kleinbaum, and Managing People, taught by Alice Andrews, aim to cultivate leadership styles that foster inclusive and productive workplace environments. Health Care Analytics with Elizabeth Stedina leverages data to improve decision-making and patient care. Each course is designed to contribute to a holistic understanding of both the business and science of health care. 

I’m thrilled with the faculty we’ve put together to teach in this program. We have faculty with deep, deep academic expertise and research expertise, balanced with people with years and years of professional experience. Having faculty from both Tuck and Geisel is a tremendous asset and creates this unique academic environment.

The capstone projects seem to be an important part of the MHA experience. Can you tell me more about those?
The capstone projects challenge students to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world problems by asking them to develop an innovative solution. These projects have an entrepreneurial or an intrapreneurial angle for a sponsor organization that wants to pilot something new. An example could be developing a business plan to increase access to reproductive health services through telehealth investment.

These projects are co-taught by faculty from both Tuck and Geisel. This interdisciplinary approach is beneficial in itself and it also mirrors the complexities of the health care sector, preparing students for the collaborative nature of their future roles.

Online learning is a significant component of the MHA program. How do you ensure it remains engaging and effective?
We’ve put considerable thought into how we deliver our online content to make sure it is as engaging and enriching as our in-person sessions. The key is to foster a sense of community among the students, regardless of their physical location. We use a variety of interactive tools and techniques to facilitate discussion, collaboration, and networking. Our aim is for each student to feel connected and engaged, not just with the faculty but with their peers as well.

What impact do you hope to see from graduates of the MHA program?
Our ultimate goal is to see our graduates drive meaningful change in the health care sector. We want them to lead with innovation, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to improving patient outcomes. In the short term, we expect them to enhance the capabilities of their respective organizations. In the long run, however, we believe they will play pivotal roles in transforming health care systems both locally and globally.

Building a program from scratch must be quite challenging. What has this process been like for you? I also recognize that this is the second Dartmouth program you helped build—the first being the Master of Health Care Delivery Science program.

That’s right. I was also founding director of the MHCDS program. Both experiences have honestly been thrilling. Starting from scratch allows us the freedom to address the critical need in our society for better health care management. You can create the curriculum you want to create without any constraints from the past.

The process has also been highly collaborative. We had several advisory boards and panels made up of alumni of MHCDS, Geisel, and Tuck who are influential leaders in health care delivery. We consulted people who are really in a position to help us inform our learning outcomes and are in touch with current workplace needs. We’ve also met with faculty in both small and large groups to walk through each course and hear feedback in real time.

We’ve been able to innovate and tailor the program to today’s challenges and student needs while maintaining the high standards of the personal, transformative, and connected educational experience that are hallmarks of Tuck and Dartmouth. I think that’s really exciting.


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