POCATELLO – Beginning this fall 2020, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) students pursuing a Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree can also pursue a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree from the Idaho State University College of Business simultaneously.
According to Dr. Tracy Farnsworth, president and chief executive officer of ICOM and a professor in the MHA program, an increasing number of medical students are pursuing dual degrees today.
“ICOM aims to prepare future physicians who not only excel in the delivery of high-quality patient care, but do so effectively within the context of today’s increasingly complex healthcare business environment,” Farnsworth said. “Students who combine an MHA with their professional medical degree learn those additional leadership principles and essential business skills needed to lead well-run health care organizations. The DO-MHA is a powerful and highly respected dual credential.”
Kristine McCarty, director of graduate programs at Idaho State said that eight spots have been reserved for ICOM DO students each academic year.
“This fall, we will have three ICOM students joining our MHA program,” McCarty said. “As the MHA program continues to grow, we may find ourselves needing to limit cohort sizes to best serve our students. Setting aside eight spots for ICOM students ensures that they still have access to the MHA program.”
According to McCarty, applying students still have to undergo the graduate application process through ISU, but can submit official MCAT scores in lieu of the GRE or GMAT requirements. McCarty noted that they do require that one of the applicants’ two letters of recommendation come from a faculty member or advisor at ICOM. This helps ensure that the applicant is prepared for the challenge of pairing together two advanced degrees at the same time.
“Additionally, we are allowing some ICOM coursework in the DO program to waive some prerequisite and elective courses in the MHA program so long as students complete at least 30 graduate credits at Idaho State,” McCarty said. “Great care was taken when deciding which courses would be waived for students pursuing both programs.”
McCarty said that Idaho State worked closely with the leadership at ICOM to determine which courses were most closely related to health care administration. She said, two examples of waived courses include health law and business analytics, which are already covered in ICOM’s own curriculum.
Once completing the program, students will graduate from Idaho State with an MHA degree likely at the same time as graduating from ICOM with their DO.
Dr. Thomas Mohr, dean and chief academic officer at ICOM, emphasized the importance of their students not only becoming medical experts, but also understanding the whole health care system.
“ICOM is committed to training caring and compassionate physicians with the expertise and knowledge to improve the health of the individuals and communities they serve,” Mohr said. “While there may have been a time that a physician could rely on his or her medical knowledge alone, a good doctor must be able to understand and navigate the complexities of the health care system.”
Health system management is rapidly becoming a core competency for physicians and these concepts are being introduced in the medical school curriculum.
“The combined DO-MHA program will provide the graduate with an additional layer of training focused on the business and leadership skills that will be essential to providing the highest quality care for patients, expanding practice opportunities for the physician and leading the evolution of the health care system for the greater good,” Mohr said.
Sarah Downs, a DO student at ICOM is one of three pursuing the dual degree beginning this fall.
“I’ve always been interested in how health care organizations operate,” Downs said. “Having an MHA degree from Idaho State will give me the knowledge I need to play a role in creating positive change within health care no matter where my career path takes me.”
Downs said that she is unsure of her medical specialty at this point, but is interested in rural health and improving small county hospitals in Idaho.
“I believe doctors need to be part of the greater conversation when it comes to improving patient care by helping make decisions on where services and programs are best spent,” Downs said. “My goal is to work together with health care administration to improve the future of health care for Idahoans.”
“This unique co-admission partnership is a response to a strong career outlook in the field and a growing need for professionals specifically trained in this area,” said Dr. William Perry Baker, the associate dean of academic affairs at ICOM. “ICOM has a long history of collaboration as an active educational partner with ISU.”