A year in the life of an MHA student

Rachel Rutledge

Meet Rachel Rutledge, a first-year student in the College of Public Health’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program. She’ll be checking in periodically throughout her first year to share her experiences with you.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself…

I grew up in Canton, OH, and attended Ohio State for my undergraduate and Master of Accounting degrees. While here, I volunteered at The James Cancer Hospital. I loved the healthcare environment, so after graduation I moved to Boston to be an auditor for health industries clients. My experience was fantastic, but I decided to return to school for an MHA because my dream is to work in administration for a cancer center. The strength of the Ohio State MHA program (specifically the impressive faculty, the involved alumni network, and the opportunity to take a clinical rotation class) and the brand-new James Cancer Hospital brought me back to Columbus. It’s great to be here! My class already seems to be a close-knit group (see photo), I’m learning a lot from my professors, and assignments have been enlightening. I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

Enjoying a Typical Day

On Wednesday, I immensely enjoyed what would could be considered just a typical day. I began my day at the library, comfortably “in the zone” of typing up a reflection for my healthcare organization management class. The assignment was to write on diversity and how we could facilitate diversity and inclusion in our (future) organization. What could have been a response of a few paragraphs became a two-and-a-half page submission because I enjoyed reflecting on this topic so much!

Then I attended the MHA professional development seminar, where we discussed emotional intelligence and how it applies to decision-making. Being aware of your reactions and considering those of others is pertinent to any career! Over the lunch hour, I attended a presentation as part of the Voices in the Community speaker series through the College of Public Health. This topic was how public transit increases physical activity, a topic that is near and dear to me as a result of the time I’ve spent in Boston.

My evening class is an elective called Death, Dying, and Bereavement, which I am taking in light of the fact I hope to work as an administrator in a cancer hospital. The class is fascinating (albeit a bit somber), and this particular class included watching a documentary on the impact that one’s suicide has on family and friends. After that class, I am fortunate to pass our awesome marching band’s practice, which undoubtedly lifts me from any residual somber reflection.

As you can see, I’m learning a lot about a variety of topics, and they are fun to ponder! I’ve loved being surrounded by people who like to discuss the things I’m interested in, and learning through both listening and reflecting has been a growing experience!

ACHE Congress

At the close of spring break, I am happy to share with you details of the conferences I attended! First, I attended the annual Congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives in Chicago. (We have a student chapter, the Association of Future Healthcare Executives, which is the main extracurricular program for MHA students.) I volunteered as a program assistant at Congress and also received funding from the College of Public Health to attend. At Congress, I heard speakers discuss various topics such as how to build a quality improvement program, the cultural impact of organizational change, and how to use data metrics to improve the revenue cycle process.

My favorite part of Congress week was meeting new people. OSU hosted a social event for Health Services Management and Policy alumni and students. It was great to catch up with friends and meet alumni from around the country! Also, Congress enabled me to reconnect with friends I made at the University of Alabama – Birmingham case competition last month. I met many other students and a variety of executives, some of whom spoke with me about fellowship opportunities for next year! Last but not least, I helped to paint a mural that will be placed in a children’s hospital. It was an exciting and eventful week!

Once back in Ohio, I attended the second annual Cancer Disparities Conference at the James Cancer Hospital where I work. Dr. Otis Brawley, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, gave the keynote address. Other excellent speakers discussed implicit bias, patient navigation, cultural competencies surrounding caring for refugees, and disparities in various types of cancer. We still have work to do to lessen disparities in care, but the first step is awareness, and this conference was certainly enlightening! Spring break may have been a break from classes, but I am thankful for these opportunities to learn outside the classroom!

Hi again!

I had a busy but wonderful weekend and wanted to share it with you! The excitement began on Thursday, which was the 13th annual Leadership Development Symposium. OSU MHA students, faculty, and first-year MHA students from several states were in attendance to share dinner and hear an enthusiastic and excellent speech by the Associate CIO of the Cleveland Clinic. He gave great insight about the role of technology in transforming care.

On Friday morning, I rounded with the pain management anesthesiology team at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. This opportunity is part of the Clinical Rotations class that we take the second half of the second semester. It is always enlightening to learn about front-line care of patients and experience first-hand what nurses and clinicians face each day.

I went from there to the Ohio Union for the OSU Case Competition, which is an annual event for first-year MHA students. We had 14 teams from schools around the country! I enjoyed listening to presentations by three of the finalist teams, including one of OSU’s teams!

On Saturday morning, I loved visiting the Cambridge Tea Room, which is near campus, for breakfast with a friend. Then I volunteered at Admitted Students Day and had the privileges of eating lunch with future MHA students, facilitating a panel, and leading a campus tour. I’m excited about the wonderful incoming class! I ventured to Third & Hollywood in Grandview for a friend’s birthday dinner. There are all sorts of fun local places, and it’s exciting to still be discovering them!

Lastly, in celebration of Opening Day for the Cleveland Indians, I made hot dog-shaped sugar cookies and baseball peanut butter banana cupcakes. I bake treats for my classmates each month to celebrate birthdays, and I am always happy to have such sweet classmates with whom to share my creations!

Go the Extra Mile

It’s hard to believe I’m already halfway through my summer residency at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston! I work in Ambulatory Practice Management, which has been an excellent combination of analyzing data and collaborating with fantastic people. For years I have dreamed of working at Dana-Farber, and by speaking with an OSU MHA alum, who put me in touch with the Dana-Farber administrative fellow, who then put me in touch with my current bosses, here I am!

I first became connected to Dana-Farber in 2012 by volunteering at events such as their Boston Marathon team check-in. Although the Boston Marathon is an excellent fundraiser and team-builder for Dana-Farber, and the fact that I’m currently training for a marathon makes me particularly impressed by this, my experience of “going the extra mile” this summer reaches beyond actual running. Staff at Dana-Farber truly do go the extra mile for patients, and it does not go unnoticed! In fact, the friendliness of parking garage staff, known for positively impacting patients’ experiences, also makes pedestrian employees such as myself smile.

This week alone, I have had several opportunities to go the extra mile, beyond my work hours or role expectations, and meet phenomenal people who were doing the same. I loved these experiences! On Tuesday, I attended a Patient and Family Advisory Council meeting of parents whose children were treated at Dana-Farber. These volunteers do not have to spend hours upon hours working to make Dana-Farber an even better place, but they do. On Wednesday, I attended a presentation by a physician who has treated Boston’s homeless for thirty years. (His book is pictured at right.) Very few people sacrifice such time and energy for this vulnerable population, but he does. In my first week at Dana-Farber, I learned that taking a few minutes to help a patient, such as by giving directions or walking with them to the clinic, is almost always a perfectly acceptable reason to be slightly tardy to a meeting – and I experienced that twice this week as well. Patients truly come first!

In summary, I recommend working at a place where people go the extra mile for each other. When you get there, jump in and join them! You will be blessed by impactful interactions, and you might just change the face of healthcare for a patient in need.

Hi Again!

It’s hard to believe I only have a week and a half left of my summer residency. Time flies! I’ve had many excellent experiences in the last few weeks. Dr. Robbins, our MHA program director, came to visit. We discussed my projects, and I got to introduce her to some of the people with whom I work closely. It was wonderful to get dinner with Dr. Robbins, her husband, and my classmates who are working at Massachusetts General Hospital!

Last week I presented the first draft of my favorite project. Using a variety of metrics and data sources, I analyzed each disease center’s nurse staffing levels. Data that tells people’s stories is my favorite! That’s one reason I have enjoyed my new project this week, which entails collecting data as we ensure patients’ care teams are updated in our computer system.

My two co-interns from Boston University have been awesome to work with this summer. As we collaborate on our final intern presentation, we have been able to reflect on so many delightful experiences! Life is full of surprises – like today’s email announcing that a grateful patient had sponsored an ice cream truck to distribute free ice cream to staff – and I look forward to the remaining week and a half of maximizing my time at Dana-Farber!


Welcome to Year Two!

It’s been an excellent start to year two!! The MHA fellowship fair was August 18, and it included 13 organizations. (Most were health systems with fellowships, but consulting firms were present as well.) I found my informal 15-minute interviews with representatives from nine organizations to be extremely helpful! It was certainly fun to reunite with many of my classmates at the fair and also to meet some students from the incoming class who volunteered at the event.

Our annual welcome picnic was the following Sunday at Goodale Park downtown, and catching up with more of my classmates, incoming students, and professors was delightful. We shared summer highlights, which for many people included outdoor activities, travel, getting a dog, or some combination of the above!

The College of Public Health Returning Graduate Student orientation kicked off the first week of classes. Learning about the deadline to apply for graduation was a bit surreal! I am excited about my classes, which include two required in-person classes (Financial Decision-Making and Health Policy), two online classes (Environmental Health and Biostatistics), and two electives (I chose Interprofessional Ethics and Quality & Patient Safety). We closed the week with a social on Friday evening, and we had excellent representation from both first- and second-year MHA students in addition to a few professors!


Fellowships- The End of the Beginning

It’s fellowship season! I have finally submitted all of my post-graduate hospital administrative fellowship applications. Even though applications are just the beginning (as hopefully some phone interviews and then on-site interviews follow), it is a relief to be done with the first part of the process! I am very grateful for support from faculty and alumni. Dr. Robbins met individually with each person applying for fellowships to learn more about our preferences and considerations in choosing where to apply. By nature of letters of recommendation, faculty will be involved in the fellowship application process, but they went above and beyond in their helpfulness. My fellowship coach, an alumni of our program and a former fellow, provided valuable insight as well. Our student organization even hosted a lunch with her to learn more about her career so far. I spoke with many other recent alumni who are current fellows to better understand their experiences, and another alum is coming to campus to hold mock interviews so we can be prepared for real ones. The alumni network here is legendary, and in the beginning of the fellowship process, I have certainly appreciated it! I look forward to seeing what is ahead in the fellowship process for my classmates and myself, knowing that we will continue to be supported in many ways by faculty and alumni!

An MHA Day

I had an exciting and eventful Friday and figured that sharing the timeline would give you a glimpse into a day as an MHA student!

8 a.m. Finance class about strategic planning

10:15 a.m. An official on-site interview offer from one of my top choices

10:30 a.m. Chat with Dr. Robbins, MHA Program Director, about fellowships

11 a.m. Mock interview with an alum who gave me great insight into what I can expect at on-site interviews (This was scheduled weeks in advance; the timing just happened to be perfect. Our alumni are working full-time jobs and don't just hang around offering mock interviews to students, don’t worry!!)

12 p.m. A few hours at my administrative intern position at The James Cancer Hospital

3 p.m. Coffee with/ encouragement from a classmate to talk about fellowship interviews!

4 p.m. Healthcare Policy class about Medicaid waivers

6 p.m. Volunteering with classmates at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk

The photo above is our group of both first- and second-year MHA student volunteers at the Light the Night walk. This annual event takes place at a park in downtown Columbus and raises money for leukemia and lymphoma research. There were over 4,000 walkers! My role was to distribute gold-colored lanterns to participants who were walking in remembrance of someone. It was a touching evening of the healthcare community, corporations and teams of friends and families coming together!

Another Semester in the Books!

A lot has happened since my last post about the fellowship application process. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing at a variety of excellent hospitals, and I met or reconnected with OSU MHA alumni at several of them. I’m very excited to report that I have accepted an offer to be an Administrative Fellow at Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville location after graduation! Many of my classmates also accepted exciting fellowship offers, and I look forward to hearing about what wonderful experiences they have in the future as well. In the meantime, school and work will keep us busy. As a TA for the Healthcare Finance 1 class, I had fun teaching and helping students prepare for their final exam. My role at The James Cancer Hospital has enabled me to dig deeper into data and graphs, which I’ve also enjoyed! I’m spoiled by wonderful coworkers, and the view (pictured below during set-up of the holiday tree) is awesome too!

You may have heard about the attack on campus in mid-November. I was safely at work and was impressed by everyone’s responses throughout the ordeal. The hospital was well-prepared for alerting staff and enacting emergency procedures to treat a few of the dozen or so individuals who were injured. The Dean of the College of Public Health sent an empathetic email acknowledging the stressful experiences of November and reminding students about the counselor on staff to help those struggling to deal with everything. First-year students had just finished their Pecha Kucha speeches, one of the most entertaining and class-bonding events of the year, so they were safe and sound together as well. The MHA program is a close and supportive family within the OSU family, and November highlighted that nothing will change that! We held our annual holiday party and have finished writing papers and taking exams, so it’s time to enjoy break and anticipate the exciting events of one last semester! Happy holidays!