The MHA Alumni Association was created in 1948, by James A. Hamilton upon the graduation of the first class. It was critically important to Mr. Hamilton that graduating students has a sense of camaraderie with each other and with future classes in years to come. The mission of the Alumni Association is to promote excellence in healthcare leadership by assuring the MHA Program’s success and cultivating a satisfying life-long alumni network. Its vision is to be the most relevant network of resources for the MHA alumni and students and a cornerstone of the Program’s continued success. In 1977, the Alumni Association created a foundation to raise funds to support the MHA Program. The Alumni Association and the Foundation were legally combined in 1983, and in 2015, the Alumni Association/Foundation integrated with the MHA Program.
Since 1977, the Alumni Association and Foundation has raised significant funds to support professorships and endowed chairs for faculty. Currently, Professor Jon Christianson sits in the James A. Hamilton endowed chair. Jean Abraham serves as Professor and Interim Division Head in the Division of Health Policy and Management. Similarly, the Alumni Association and Foundation has raised millions of dollars to support scholarship funds for students since the early 1970s.
The Alumni Association is fundamental in assisting with programs that are vital to our student and alumni experience. The Alumni Association works in conjunction with the School of Public Health to coordinate the Mentor Program for students and many alumni are actively involved with the problem solving courses.
Membership in the MHA Alumni Association is automatically granted to any alumnus who has successfully completed the full time or executive Masters (MHA) Program in Healthcare Administration at the University of Minnesota, the PhD degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Minnesota, those who have been credentialed through the Independent Study Program (ISP) from the University of Minnesota MHA Program, and to students who are actively pursuing a degree or credential through the MHA Program.
About the ISP Program
The roots of the University of Minnesota’s ISP program go back to the 1950’s and the American Hospital Association (AHA), where ISP founder and director emeritus Vernon E. Weckwerth was serving as the organization’s head of research and statistics. He was eventually tasked with running the AHA’s research arm, the non-profit Hospital Research and Educational Trust (HRET). While there, HRET received a large grant from the Kellogg Foundation to fund university-based programs to provide training and continuing education for hospital administrators.
Following Dr. Weckewrth’s return to the SPH, he created the Office of Continuing Hospital Education (OCHE) to work through the the Upper Midwest Hospital Conference, which represented hospital associations from Montana to Michigan and Iowa to Manitoba to what was, at the time, a groundbreaking educational approach: use the expertise of employed hospital administrators to train new and junior administrators in their geographical area. This, combined with the topics taught by faculty at partner educational institutions, was the earliest iteration of ISP. Students were given an exam at the end of the training program to demonstrate the effectiveness of this new approach. Initial evidence showed that is was indeed successful. The evaluation of the approach became the basis for the doctoral dissertation of Edith Leyasmyer, who later would become the Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, which was the longtime home to the ISP program.
In 1960, soon after he earned his Ph.D. degree, Dr. Weckwerth took a faculty position in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Master of Hospital Administration (MHA) program. He built a significant research program, due in part to his earlier connection with the AHA and Maternal and Child Health. That research portfolio was eventually spun off to become Minnesota Systems Research, at the time the largest health research organization in the Minnesota.
By the late 1960’s, Weckwerth realized the importance of reaching back to his own rural roots to educate those who were in no position to leave their professional positions to attend the University of Minnesota, and if they did, may never return to their rural outposts. In 1968 Dr. Weckwerth, now a full tenured professor, issued a call to hospital administrators for applications to the first-of-its-kind executive education program in the world: ISP. The admissions criteria and curriculum for ISP were the same as those of the University of Minnesota’s MHA full time program. In ISP, students would spend two weeks on campus each year for three years, and participate in a monthly education session in the field, near their home institution, with an executive mentor who served as a preceptor.
The link between ISP and the MHA program proved to be a critical one. ISP students, in their third year, learned from Ph.D. students in the healthcare administration program about how to do a research thesis. The Ph.D. students, in turn, were exposed to the real-world experience of the ISP’ers.
ISP students earned a credential of management studies (CMS) after two years and a credential of advanced studies (CAS) after three years. They were also eligible, after admission, to enter the School of Public Health’s MHA or Master of Public Health (MPH) programs.
By the mid 1970’s, the ISP had developed a reputation for excellence that reached beyond the Upper Midwest and demand for entrance into the program was coming from all over the world, based solely on the word of mouth.
When the ISP program was closed in 2008, more than 40 years after its inception, it had 3,117 alumni from 45 countries.
ISP by the numbers
In 2008, at the time of the ISP’s transition there were:
- 3,117 alumni in 45 countries
- 289 ISP students who had gone on to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree
- 550 ISP students what had gone on to earn a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree
- 120 physicians and 825 nurses who matriculated in the program.
ISP had more than 30 alumni executives each in Hong Kong, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and more than 1,000 CEOs and other high-ranking executives including 11 ministries of health. The program had approximately 1,015 faculty members throughout its 40-year history, from 45 countries, including the United States.
How an Audacious Pioneer Built the Minnesota MHA Program and Why it Flourishes Today