February 1, 2023 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Master of Health Administration (MHA) student Anna Dunbar became interested in health care management during her senior year of high school in nearby Irmo. While browsing the curricula for various science-based degrees that would lead to a career in health/medicine, she realized that none of the coursework ignited the passion she was after.
“I was still intrigued by health care and truly felt it was the field for me, but also knew that my strengths were more suited towards leadership and administration,” Dunbar says. “After doing some research, pursuing a degree in public health with a minor in business with the intent to pursue my MHA right after college felt like the natural career path for me.”
I had the most peace about continuing at USC, and I can whole-heartedly say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
During her freshman year, the Capstone Scholar was connected with Emily Lordo (then a first-year MHA student) through the Capstone program. Lordo was welcoming and invited Dunbar to a networking event hosted by the MHA program in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM).
“Emily’s willingness to mentor me and her warm personality helped me feel comfortable that USC’s MHA program would be a great fit,” she says.
An introduction to health care management class taught by Kolby Redd (a HSPM MHA & Ph.D. alumna and adjunct instructor), who frequently mentioned the MHA program and how it prepared her for her career, piqued her interest even further. Dunbar still did her homework: researching, applying to, and being accepted at various MHA programs, but she kept coming back to USC.
“I had the most peace about continuing at USC, and I can whole-heartedly say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” says Dunbar, who was elected to serve as the Vice President of USC’s Healthcare Leadership Association.
Since beginning her coursework in 2021, she has worked at Prisma Health as a graduate assistant in primary care. In this role, she has gained experience in a variety of administrative and quality improvement projects. After graduating in May, Dunbar will continue working with the state’s largest health care organization – this time as an Administrative Fellow working with the executive leadership team on day-to-day operations at Prisma Health Richland Hospital.
In the classroom, Dunbar has found interests in global health, particularly the comparison of different health care systems and tracing the evolution of health care in the United States. She’s always eager to learn about any opportunities and tools (e.g., value-based reimbursement and care models) for improving our system to combat health disparities. Working with three of her classmates, Dunbar and her team placed in the top four for a nationwide case competition aimed at developing solutions to the challenges facing a health care system in California.
Treat your time in graduate school like the resource that it is – taking advantage of any opportunity to learn, apply your skills, network with mentors and leaders in the field.
Clinical assistant professor Melinda Merrell and assistant professor Bankole Olatosi have both served as graduate directors and important mentors for Dunbar during her program.
“Dr. Merrell has provided me with personal and professional advice on countless occasions involving many important moments during my education, and I am so thankful for her unrelenting support and willingness to always be available,” she says. “Dr. Olatosi’s commitment to encouraging students to step outside of their comfort zone and take advantage of every opportunity available to grow professionally has resonated with me and truly been a motivating factor behind most of my extracurricular pursuits while in the MHA program.”
Dunbar also has advice for those considering a similar path or any graduate program.
“Treat your time in graduate school like the resource that it is – taking advantage of any opportunity to learn, apply your skills, network with mentors and leaders in the field, and form relationships with your classmates and professors as this will be infinitely enriching and beneficial to your personal and professional growth,” she says. “To be able to obtain higher education is a blessing and a privilege, and the limited time that you have in graduate school is highly valuable.”