December 2008, Volume 12, Number 10

College Notebook

Revamped school debuts with advanced programs

Of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the labor market, more than half are in the health professions. The employment of physician assistants, for example, is expected to grow much faster than the average (27 percent) for all occupations through the year 2014. Experts say this growth is due, in part, to the anticipated expansion of the health services industry. Couple that fact with Americans’ desire to contain health costs and the result is the increased utilization of physician assistants by physicians and health care industries.

For Miami Dade College, long a leader in health professions education, this growth in demand has a direct impact on academic programs.

The College already offers an associate degree to train entry-level physician assistants. But studies indicate the demand for fully credentialed, clinically practicing physician assistants would grow to an estimated 253 local jobs annually.

To meet that need, faculty in the College’s School of Allied Health Technologies proposed an expansion of the Physician Assistant program to include a four-year bachelor’s degree track. Such a program would fall in line with the Florida Department of Education’s K-20 Strategic Plan supporting workforce health care education.

But that was just the first step.

While the College awaits state approval on the new four-year Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Health Science with an option in physician assistant studies, faculty and administrators announced a new name for the School of Allied Health Technologies and a new academic structure for all of the Medical Center Campus.

A 21st century model

The School of Allied Health Technologies – which shares Medical Center Campus with the School of Nursing and offers associate degrees and professional certificates in more than a dozen disciplines – now carries a new moniker: the School of Health Sciences.

Additionally, the campus has launched a national search for two new academic deans: a dean of nursing and a dean of health sciences.

This new model matches the structure at four-year institutions and better positions Medical Center Campus to meet the growing demands of the industry.

“The administration, faculty and staff took a global look at our operations and offerings, and realized that we were headed into exciting new opportunities,” said Medical Center Campus President Dr. Anita S. Kaplan, who served previously as the executive vice president for academic affairs at Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y.

“We realized that we had opened the door to a new leadership model that moves Medical Center Campus into the forefront of new health science education initiatives.”

A national trend

In 1989, the Pew Health Professions Commission made recommendations for improving health professions education and developing policies to respond to the nation’s health care workforce needs. More than a decade later, the National Academy of Sciences advised that educators and accreditation, licensure and certification organizations should ensure that students and working professionals develop and maintain proficiency in five core areas: delivering patient-centered care, working as part of interdisciplinary teams, practicing evidence-based medicine, focusing on quality improvement and using cutting-edge information technology.

The phrase “allied health technology” is dated terminology. The industry adopted terms like “health professions” and “health sciences,” which were more inclusive, including those professionals that provide for the administration and management of health services, the development of health-related policy, biomedical research, and provision of health-related education and training. Federal agencies are also using the term “health professions” in conducting surveys and reporting on job vacancies.

Institutions around the country started to follow suit. Higher education institutions in Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Maryland and elsewhere adopted new names.

MDC is now part of this national trend.

“The name change to School of Health Sciences is designed to reflect a school model with broader appeal that is providing education in a wide range of disciplines,” Kaplan said.

Augmenting resources

The new name better aligns MDC with its educational and health care partners. MDC students benefit from strong partnerships with such local health care giants as Baptist Health of South Florida, HCA Healthcare and Jackson Memorial Hospital, as well as hundreds of clinical sites throughout the county. These partnerships enhance the educational curriculum of the College, but they equip future health care leaders with the hands-on training that is critical to quality care.

There will also be an expansion of existing partnerships to maximize opportunities. For example, campus leaders are working with Mount Sinai Medical Center to enhance training opportunities for nursing and health science students.

The School of Health Sciences is also actively seeking and fostering new partnerships that can augment existing resources, create new learning opportunities for students and better serve the community.

Continued excellence

Since 1966, with the inception of the Division of Medically Related Programs, MDC has done much to meet industry and community needs. By the early 1970s, a stroll through the crowded quarters of MDC’s North Campus was enough proof of that constant growth and popularity. Classes were frequently relocated to larger rooms to satisfy the hunger for space. Programs strained under the high volume of students entering the health professions.

With the opening of Medical Center Campus, the College got more room for the region’s most accomplished health professions programs to grow and brought valuable hands-on training to students in the heart of Miami’s bustling medical district.

Over the years, Medical Center Campus has flourished. Nearly every program has supported the College’s aim of helping Miami’s medical community fill important roles while training its citizenry for good-paying jobs.

“The school is a national exemplar in the 21st century and a leader in the provision of ’market-ready’ health professions graduates,“ said academic chair John Solomon. “As the College expands its health programs to meet the needs of the community, a name that best reflects the professions within the school is appropriate.”

— Lourdes Rodríguez-Barrera

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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
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