MHA program celebrates accreditation

After several years of writing proposals, the Weber State University Master of Health Administration program has received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. WSU is now held to the same standard as the ‘big boys,’ and is able to compete for students with larger schools.

CAHME is known as one of the highest standards for heath care management education programs in the United States and Canada. WSU is the second school in Utah to offer an accredited program, after the University of Utah.

The accreditation process was a long time coming, according to Jeremie Atkinson, a 2012 graduate of the program. Atkinson said he was obtaining his MHA while the program was under scrutiny from CAHME.

“I was there while we were going through the long process,” he said.

Atkinson also mentioned that he met with the committee and kept asking, “Have we got it yet? What’s our status?”

Carla Wiggins, the director of WSU’s MHA program, said the accreditation sets WSU apart from other schools.

“We made it (CAHME accreditation) on our first run, which doesn’t always happen,” said Wiggins, mentioning that the U of U had just received its CAHME accreditation mere weeks before WSU. “We are at the same standard as the main schools.”

Wiggins said it was satisfying as a faculty member to see her students go on and be successful after graduating from the program, especially since the accreditation.

“You can have a wonderful program that is not accredited, but accreditation means that someone is coming in to closely scrutinize your work, and in health care administration, CAHME really are the gold standard,” Wiggins said. “For us, I think it means we are going to attract — it’s hard to believe — maybe even better students and more students.”

According to Wiggins, out of the average of 25 students who enroll in the MHA program, 22 of them are already employed in health care, usually performing mid-level management jobs. She said many employers wait until their employees graduate before giving them a promotion.

“This is what gets them to the next level,” Wiggins said. “This is really a degree that helps you advance in your career.”

Involving more than five years’ worth of graduates, the newest addition to the MHA program is its alumni association. Atkinson said starting up an alumni association for the master’s program was essential to graduates because of networking, socializing and continuing education.

“Now that we’re official, CAHME accredited, we should probably have an official alumni association,” he said, addressing the crowd during the reception. “One of the things we’d like to ask for your help in is your participation. As alumni and representatives of Weber throughout the community, it would really mean a lot to the program and for us as a students’ base . . . If we want education, great; if we want networking opportunities, fantastic. Whatever we want, it’s ours to create it.”

Yasmen Simonian, the dean of the WSU College of Health Professions, said during the reception that the process takes many years of writing proposals and collaboration. She congratulated the program’s previous graduates and wished luck to the current students.

“Please stay in touch, because we need your help,” Simonian said, “and we need the connections that we have to get more graduates.”