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Programs News Kevin Storr February 22, 2018

Doctoral DirectorsCurrent and past HSA doctoral program directors:
Top Row L/R - Hearld, Hernandez
Bottom Row L/R - Duncan, Fottler, Thompson
On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, the UAB School of Health ProfessionsDepartment of Health Services Administration celebrated 40 years of doctoral education. Together, the PhD in Administration-Health Services program and the Executive Doctor of Science in Administration-Health Services program have graduated 166 researchers, scholars, teachers, and leaders.

“In the early days of this program we created a culture where the students were encouraged to work with one another on their academic papers and that wasn’t being done on a regular basis by many others,” said Myron Fottler, Ph.D., former director of the PhD in Administration-Health Services program. “When I looked at the student poster presentations today I noticed that strategy continues. The program directors that have come in since I left have done a great job and a great service to UAB students and alumni.”

The 40th anniversary event saw almost every program director return to campus to celebrate the numerous achievements by students, faculty and alumni over the years. The directors, as well as the many alumni who returned, toured the new learning spaces in the School of Health Professions Building (SHPB) where the current doctoral students learn and conduct research.Everyone in attendance also received a glimpse of the future – a look at what the next 40 years of doctoral education may bring.

“Our doctoral programs are integral to our ability to develop leaders to shape tomorrow’s health care. Doctoral students in the department are working alongside nationally recognized researchers to create evidence to guide decision making in hospitals and health systems,” said Christy Harris Lemak, Ph.D., chair, Department of Health Services Administration. “Our students are learning to conduct research at the intersection of leadership, quality and safety, and informatics. We have a unique setting here and our PhD students and alumni are important to the work we do now and the work we will do in the future to improve health and health care in the U.S. and the world.”

Doctoral Student 01PhD student Shikha S. Modi, MBAPhD PROGRAM

Initially, it was only the PhD in Administration-Health Services program which was established and directed by Richard (Dick) Thompson, Ph.D., and W. Jack Duncan, Ph.D., in 1978. During its illustrious 40 year history, directors and co-directors, in addition to Thompson, Duncan and Fottler, included Distinguished Service Professor S. Robert (Bob) Hernandez, DrPH, who guided the program from 1999 – 2016, Gail McGee, Ph.D., co-director from 2000 – 2002, and Susan Key, Ph.D., JD, co-director from 2002 – 2004.

In 2016, Larry Hearld, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Services Administration was named director as the PhD program transitioned from Hernandez’ leadership.

“You do not reach a milestone like 40 years without the vision and commitment of the leaders that preceded me. I feel fortunate to be counted among them,” said Hearld. “With such a distinguished history, my job is, in some ways, simple - build on the strong foundation already established and adapt the program to meet the new demands facing graduates. We want to make sure we are providing our students with a breadth of educational opportunities, from teaching to service to hands-on research that will put them ahead of the competition in an ever-evolving job market. I am excited to take on these challenges in an environment that highly values doctoral education.”


In 2009, the Executive Doctor of Science in Administration-Health Services program was established to create a practice-oriented, academic program designed for experienced healthcare executives who occupy or are preparing to enter senior leadership positions. Hernandez was named inaugural director that year and it is a role he continues to serve today.

“We just welcomed our tenth cohort and we already have 45 alumni – considering our first cohort graduated in 2011 that means we are averaging more than seven graduates a year from this program which is incredible,” said Hernandez. “We continue to attract great executives who are great students, but more importantly, they are great alumni who come back to campus to lecture and work with the current cohorts as well as collaborate with faculty in applied research.”

Doctoral Student 02Sarah K. Paul, MSHI, MSHA CandidatePhD in Administration-Health Services Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund

In 2017, Fottler established the first-ever endowed scholarship for the PhD program when he and his wife created the Myron D. and Carol A. Fottler Endowed Support Fund for the Ph.D. Program in Administration-Health Services. That scholarship will support HSA PhD students with tuition, travel fees associated with professional development, or for costs associated with publishing as a sole author or first author.

But that did not signal the end of Fottler’s generosity and support of his former program.

In 2018, Fottler initiated the development of another fund that would help PhD students. This new effort – the PhD in Administration-Health Services Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund – will assist students with the many costs associated with their education.

And as you can tell by the name of the scholarship, Fottler is asking all HSA PhD alumni to join him in giving back to this special program. In an open letter to all graduates, Fottler said:

“Ask yourself the following question: Where would I be today in my life and career if I had never attended and graduated from the UAB PhD Program? If you answer the question honestly I think you will conclude the program contributed significantly to both the quality of your life as well as your professional success. We are all called to support those who follow us as we were supported by those who came before us.”

If you are an alumni or former faculty member of the PhD in Administration-Health Services program and would like to make a gift to support the new Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund and future PhD students, please reach out to Katie Adams at 205-996-5469 or katiedav@uab.edu.

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