Changing lives for the better: Why business students should consider a Master of Health Administration

HSRMP orientation - MHA
The department of health services, research, management and policy welcomes new M.H.A. students during Fall 2023 orientation.

By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow

Traditionally, when people think of the health care field, they envision hardworking doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners on the front lines of patient care. But what about the individuals behind the curtain, who support hospital operations and make sure clinicians have everything they need to successfully treat patients?

At the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, students in the full-time and part-time Master of Health Administration (M.H.A.) program are training to be leaders in health care, developing the necessary business and management skills to address today’s most pressing health-related problems.

So, why should a student with a business background consider a career in health care? And why should business students consider advancing their education with a UF Master of Health Administration degree?

Dr. Lee Revere
Dr. Lee Revere

The answer is simple, says Lee Revere, Ph.D., a professor and Florida Blue Endowed Chair of the PHHP department of health services research, management and policy.

“The United States currently spends more than $4 trillion dollars a year on health care, approximately 20% of gross domestic product,” she said. “Health care is a dynamic field. In addition to financial commitment, the current health care trends, emerging technology, and advancements in artificial intelligence make it an exciting and evolving industry to work in.”

Undergraduate business students are well-positioned to pursue an M.H.A. degree, says Revere, as they possess strong skills in finance, accounting, marketing and strategy, which are highly pertinent to the health care field. The UF M.H.A. program expands, refines and builds upon this foundational knowledge, providing business students with diverse career opportunities in the health care industry.

“UF M.H.A. graduates are well-equipped for managerial roles within health care systems, offering expertise in operations, finance, strategy and quality,” Revere said. “Similarly, the program provides opportunities for students interested in pursuing positions in health care consulting firms or pharmaceutical and medical device companies, where they can apply strategic thinking to address industry challenges, as well as for roles in the insurance sector, enabling them to navigate health care policy and financing. There are many career pathways available to our graduates where they can contribute meaningfully to different aspects of health care.”

Luke Dewlow, M.H.A., is one of these graduates, leveraging a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UF’s Warrington College of Business with his master’s degree in health administration from PHHP. Now a clinical analyst for HealthTrust Performance Group, Dewlow credits his UF M.H.A. degree with providing him with industry-leading skills in health care and a strong network for career success.

Luke Dewlow, M.H.A.

“My combined background in business and health administration allowed me to enter the health care industry with proficient skills to excel in operational and financial reporting,” he said. “There are nuances to the health care industry that I would not have understood with just my business degree.”

Dewlow recommends that business students considering health care as a career should be intentional with their actions.

“If you are a business student who has an interest in the health care industry, whether it be hospital operations, ambulatory care, supply chain, etc., I highly recommend pursuing an M.H.A. degree with UF,” he said. “The opportunity to participate in case competitions with the program and the many UF Health affiliated internships can give a business student the industry knowledge and training they need to succeed. I give a lot of credit to my internship with UF Health’s M500 program for my development as a health care professional.”

While some students dream of pursuing an M.H.A. from an early age, many stumble upon the field serendipitously.

Daniel Palacio, B.S., a current UF M.H.A. student and a graduate of the bachelor’s of business administration in management program at Florida State University, didn’t always envision a career in health care. He shadowed the CEO of a local dermatology office, later becoming an intern, and realized the health care field offered the stability and positive impact he was looking for in a long-term career.

“Business students like me should pursue a UF M.H.A. because you can go anywhere in health care with it, from the typical hospital positions to long-term care, nursing homes, surgery centers, insurance, and much more. UF offers a great program for future administrators, and health care is an ever-growing sector in our country. When it comes to stability for a career, this is it!”

Keith Benson
Dr. Keith Benson

Since beginning the M.H.A. program, Palacio has used his background in business and health administration to land shadowing and internship opportunities in clinical and non-clinical settings. After graduation, Palacio will start a fellowship as an executive resident at HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital.

For Palacio, the choice to pursue an M.H.A. was easy. But what about students who are interested in health care, but undecided about which advanced degree — M.H.A. or M.B.A. — is right for them?

Keith Benson, Ph.D., M.H.A., M.B.A., a clinical professor and program director of UF’s Master of Health Administration program, holds both credentials, and says either degree is a viable path to a successful career. He advises business students who are keenly interested in health care, however, to pursue an M.H.A.

“An M.B.A. tends to be more general. The key is the skills you’re developing. An M.H.A is really focused on the application of competencies in health care,” Benson said. “If you know you want to be in health care, then get an M.H.A.”

Most health care systems prefer to hire M.H.A. graduates, Revere said.

“M.H.A. gradates receive much of the same training (as an M.B.A. graduate) coupled with internship and project-based learning that provides the much-needed hands-on experience to hit the ground running in a health care institution,” she said.

Daniel Palacio, B.S.

These reasons are what attracted Dewlow and Palacio to the UF M.H.A. program, in addition to its high ranking, reputation and affordability. Another positive: access to the Gator Nation network and a history of strong job placement and career success among M.H.A. graduates.

So, in a world where you can be anything, why be a health care administrator?

Dewlow and Palacio say the answer ultimately boils down to job stability, leadership potential, career growth and the ability to make a lasting impact on patients and their families.

“Health care is a business and an industry of service,” Dewlow said. “Compassionate leaders with a business acumen have potential for great accomplishments in the health care world.”

Palacio agrees: “Health care administrators are necessary! You might think that providers and nurses in a hospital or clinic are the only things turning and churning. Still, in the background, everything from being paid to negotiating better contracts with insurance companies to building out new surgery centers or cancer treatment facilities all rely on the administrative team.”

“You can add value even if you aren’t on the clinical side. With an M.H.A., you will have the opportunity to lead and change lives for the better!”

It’s great to be a Florida M.H.A. Gator! See what makes UF’s Master of Health Administration stand out from the crowd.