Graduate Council Advisory Committee
Lister Hill Library, room G08
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Attending:  Kyle Grimes, James Collawn, Lynn Kirkland, Alan Eberhardt, David Vance, Edwin Cook, Roderick Fullard, Kenneth Miller, David Brown, Stacy Cofield, Puri Bangalore, Tracy Zhang

Graduate School Staff:  Susan Rich, Jeff Engler, Susan Banks, Cyndi Ballinger, Bryan Noe

Guests: Dr. Retta Evans and Amanda Dorsey

Action Items:

The first Action Item on the agenda was consideration of a proposal for the merger of the MAEd in Community Health with the Certification program in Non-Profit Management. Dr. Retta Evans responded to questions from the committee. Students from the non-profit and health education sectors would be attracted by the merger of these programs.  Students enrolled in the MAEd in Community Health program would take existing MPA courses in fundraising, non-profit management etc. with a combination of other MPA offerings so that when the proposed course work checklist had been completed they would have a Masters degree in Community Health and a Certificate in non-profit management. An ADCOM member asked how completion of the certificate would be acknowledged. Response: Students’ transcripts will show both the certificate in non-profit management along with the Master’s degree in Community Health education.  An ADCOM member asked if it would be possible for someone who is not in the MAEd program to also earn the certificate. Response:  A student can earn just the certificate without being in the MAEd program.  An ADCOM member asked if the program will be housed in the School of Education.  Response: Yes.  An ADCOM member followed up with a question on the courses where EPR 607 and 608 were listed as a prerequisite but were not in the list to be taken for the degree and would that requirement add an additional course. Response: Yes, it will add an extra course which is required in the master’s program already.  An ADCOM member asked the full committee about the process for merging.  Response: If approved by ADCOM the merger would go forward. The proposal would not have to be vetted outside of the university because the amalgamation would be between two existing programs.  A Motion to accept the proposal was made and seconded.  The committee voted unanimously to approve.

The second Action Item was review of a proposal for developing three Specialty Tracks in the MS in Health Informatics Program (MSHI). Amanda Dorsey, the MSHI program Director, responded to questions from the committee. The new tracks will be incorporated into the existing MSHI program.  The HI industry has shifted with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act in concert with the resultant Medicaid and Medicare incentives for hospitals and health providers to adopt electronic health records. The fundamental shift for the MSHI program was that UAB has been training generalists, which is what the industry needed previously, and now program graduates need much more specific skill sets.  The MSHI program is attempting to address the need by developing new academic offerings which will prepare graduates more effectively for new industry needs.  With more people accessing the health provider system there will be a greater accumulation of HI data.  MSHI Program graduates will need to focus more on aspects of how data is distributed within an organization, who has access to the data, and data quality issues. The types of available jobs will be for Data Analytics Officers, Directors or Managers of Data Governance, or for individuals who have expertise in data analysis. 

The current MSHI faculty are familiar with some components of the proposed new curriculum and more faculty will be sought from across campus to help round out the curriculum and to help teach the proposed new courses. The addition of the new MSHI tracks will provide students will a wider range  of expertise. The User Experience track will target deficits in managing the proliferation of patient data and managing portals for accessing medical information.  There is a lack of expertise in designing mobile applications in health care; this is an unmet need in the state and region. The types of jobs in this niche will be for senior user experience designers, product design managers, user experience architects, and user experience strategists.  Prospective students will be individuals who are already employed at academic medical centers. 

The first proposed new track is Data Analytics. An ADCOM member asked if all of these new tracks will be provided as classroom courses, online, or in a blended format. Response: The new tracks will be offered predominantly online but there is a residential component that will be required of all students. The program will be listed as being 50% blended.  An ADCOM member asked about a particular set of courses numbered 660-664; it is stated they will be developed and also indicated that adjuncts will be used. Response: Initially, adjunct faculty will have to be used because only a few of the current MSHI faculty have both an understanding of the health care industry and HI data analytics. Finding new faculty with an appropriate terminal degree and getting them to move to Birmingham to teach MSHI courses will take time. To launch the program in a timely manner, adjuncts will be used, and once there is a critical mass of students, the program will have the resources necessary to hire additional permanent faculty.  An ADCOM member followed up with a comment regarding the course titled Advance Database and Design for Health Care by recommending a current UAB faculty member who teaches a similar specialized course at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

ADCOM members inquired regarding prerequisites for, and content of, the Database and Design course.  Response:  The course will be focused on the application of appropriate database development techniques. What has been learned from the Health Care Quality and Safety program is that students need an exceptional understanding of process and the ability to work in teams.  An ADCOM member commented on students’ need to have programming language experience and asked about the background students will have in that regard.  Response: Students will have a basic statistics background and some health care focus as undergraduates.  Having previous programming language experience will not be essential. An ADCOM member asked if there were any benchmarks for success.  Response: SACS has very prescriptive accreditation criteria. To assure that students will be properly prepared it is strongly suggested that they be required to take a core information comprehensive exam at the beginning of their studies to test their relevant knowledge.  Performance on such an exam might indicate potential deficiencies that would then be remedied in the students’ first year.  A motion to accept the first proposal was made and seconded.  No further discussion. Committee members voted to approve the Data Analytics track.

A number of job titles with which the committee members were unfamiliar were included in the description of these new programs.  An ADCOM member asked if the job titles were developed in response to the ACA.  Response:  All other industries which have technology interfaces with patients or customers, have huge user experience data repositories. This approach is broadly used in many industries but once again health care is late to the market.  The new job titles have arisen in response to a perceived need.  An ADCOM member asked if the data stored and analyzed will be focused solely on patients or whether access and use by doctors and nurses is being considered. Response: A large component of HI data is already available for use by physicians and nurses.  The access is currently being provided by four or five commercial vendors.  The thinking is that it would be too expensive for health providers to withdraw from current contracts with the major vendors, but there will be a need for next generation applications and that is where our program graduates will have the ability to make an impact. An ADCOM member asked for clarification regarding total semester hours required in the tracks. Response: The Data Analyst will require 57 credits and the User Experience will require 45. An ADCOM member asked how those requirements compared to other programs that do not require as many hours. Response: In some cases, the additional hours are necessary to meet programmatic accreditation requirements, or more frequently, a certain amount of clinical experience is required. These credit hour requirements are the norm in the field.  An ADCOM member asked what the demand there will be the for these new tracks. Response:  Right now all of this is new in health care. People are slowly catching on and companies are starting to advertise jobs for User Experience Designers. It is expected that “user experience” will be a household name within the next five years. The tracks will be attractive to individuals already gainfully employed in the health professions who wish to obtain additional expertise with an eye toward preparing for career advancement.  An ADCOM member asked if students will take courses sequentially.  Response: The program will be lock step. An ADCOM member followed up on the tech companies that are currently managing the process. Do you see students coming through the program working for the larger tech companies or hospitals?  Response: Some will be on development teams in hospitals which have in house staff, while others will join the tech companies who are also starting to hire User Experience Designers which they haven’t done before. Because there are no programs like this, the vendors are hiring and they want employees who have the health care context. This will be a fairly efficient way to get the health care context specific to what the job functions are and also earn an advanced degree credential.  An ADCOM member asked if there are estimates of potential interest. Response: The five year plan is to enroll 25 to 30 students per track in each cohort.  An ADCOM member asked how students are advised with regard to which track to enter.  Response: A large part of the recruitment and marketing effort will be spent developing materials and recruiting to specific audiences. Students are expected to come to the program with specific experiences before they are advised on which track to pursue.  An ADCOM member asked if a test would be helpful to gage a student’s interest and background to help guide them.  Response: The suggstion will be considered.  An ADCOM member asked if the faculty is ultimately thinking of allowing students to take multiple tracks eventually leading to a PhD.  Response: The Masters degree focus will come first.  It is possible that the five courses from each of the specialty tracks could become graduate certificates where a student can complete one track and add a certificate in another.  An ADCOM member asked what happens to the students who have to leave the program and come back the next year.  Response: It has happened on occasion but most of the students who have to leave come back and continue. The program is cohort based.  Students are aware of the process when they begin.  A motion to accept the proposal was made and seconded.  No further discussion.  ADCOM voted to approve the User Experience track.

The existing Health Information Management track is an advanced practice track.  The field is changing and as technology becomes more sophisticated, the information used in health care organizations is also becoming more complex. Therefore, the skill level of our graduates must increase to keep pace with these developments. The Health Information Management professional association is moving toward an expectation of a graduate level education as the professional credential for entry level positions.  By adding these tracks to the existing MSHI we can incorporate all requirements necessary to meet accreditation requirements.  The existing degree requires 57 total credit hours. The HIM track will need to accredited independently of the Informatics Track to allow students to sit for the professional certification exam.  The credential focus is important to make the students eligible for certification.  If the program goes forward, the HIM faculty will become more efficient in course delivery. The faculty will only independently deliver the specialty courses in the various tracks. The existing advanced courses are already being taught by faculty in Health Information Management.  A decision to phase out the undergraduate program has been made irrespective of market demand. An ADCOM member asked what type of undergraduate would apply o the HIM track. Response: The most obvious feeder program is the undergraduate Health Care Management program which provides broad based industry knowledge. Undergraduates in business also have a good foundation, particularly those that come through the medical informatics track because they are already taking courses within the department.  Students with a good science foundation, good communication skills, and decent technology skills would also be eligible to be accepted as well. Undergraduates from public health would also be a good fit.  An ADCOM member asked with the undergraduate program being phased out why will there not be enough faculty to cover the anticipated new courses. Response: Because we will be using the track model, the core courses will be managed through the Health Informatics faculty based on the existing arrangement. There are four full time professionally credentialed HIM faculty plus there are two more individuals among the faculty who hold appropriate credentials. Of the six, three hold doctoral degrees and a fourth one is almost there (dissertation only).  A motion was made to approve the proposal and seconded. No further comments.  ADCOM members voted to approve the proposed HIM track.

Information Item:

  1. NIH recommendation regarding employment of Individual Development Plans; Update
  2. New NSF (and existing NIH) requirements for Responsible Conduct of Research education for undergraduate, as well as predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees who are supported on Federal funds

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.