Susquehanna Health, Penn State announce strategic alliance

September 2, 2009

Susquehanna Health and Penn State’s Master of Health Administration (M.H.A.) program have announced a strategic alliance that will advance co-curricular learning for students and provide Susquehanna Health with a high-quality resource for strategic research.

As part of the agreement, the M.H.A. program will undertake one “capstone project” per year for Susquehanna Health during the spring semester from 2010 to 2013. For each class of students, the regional health system will provide a high-level project opportunity that is deemed to have substantial strategic value to the organization’s planning focus and operations.

“We are very excited about this innovative partnership and its long-term value to the health system, Penn State, and the students within the M.H.A. program," said William McClain, senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning. “Through this alliance, Susquehanna Health receives the benefit of a continuing source of high-quality strategic research, while the students gain knowledge and important experience in a real world project environment. It is truly a win-win relationship with substantial value for both parties.”

“Education today requires that students have the opportunity to practice and apply skills and knowledge learned in the classroom, especially in a dynamic and important area like health care,” said Dennis G. Shea, professor and head of the Department of Health Policy and Administration. “To put students in touch with the critical challenges of leading health care organizations, we seek collaborations with those who face those challenges daily. Grounded in an outstanding academic education by our faculty and mentored by the vision and expertise of Susquehanna Health’s leaders, our students will be prepared to help health care organizations, employers and communities in Pennsylvania and the nation improve health care quality and access, while reining in excessive costs.”

Students who work with Susquehanna Health as part of their capstone project will gain experience with quantitative analysis and exposure to a variety of business experiences. Past projects have centered on important changes a health care company may go through, such as the addition of a new service or facility, the expansion of an existing facility, and entry into a new health care market.

As part of their project, students will develop timelines and mile posts to measure their progress throughout the semester. The capstone projects also provide students experience with sensitivity analysis, cost-benefit analysis, market analysis, and utilization projections. At the end of the project, students will present the results of their work, both written and orally, to SH’s executive team. SH will then evaluate students on the quality of their work and their presentation skills.

The projects will be completed in 250 to 400 person hours, starting early in the spring semester and wrapping up two weeks before commencement. Susquehanna Health will provide leadership, support, and information to ensure successful completion of the projects. Through communication with students, leaders at all levels at Susquehanna Health will help describe the details and scope of the project and allow students to ask questions.

Steven P. Johnson, president and CEO of Susquehanna Health, expressed his enthusiasm for the relationship. “Susquehanna Health places great value on the potential of partnerships, particularly with like-minded organizations such as Penn State that share our mission to improve lives and to maximize human potential,” he said. “Our strategic alliance with Penn State’s Master of Health Administration program is an important one and expands our relationship with Penn State, which currently includes a clinical affiliation with the Penn State Cancer Institute and our own Cancer Center at the Divine Providence Hospital campus. That affiliation has enhanced our cancer program and advanced our ability to provide a level of cancer services not usually found outside of metropolitan areas and academic medical centers. Likewise, we look forward to substantial benefits accruing from our academic relationship with the M.H.A. program.”

The M.H.A. program is part of Penn State’s Department of Health Policy and Administration and is headed by Shea. Karen Volmar, director of the M.H.A. program, will represent Penn State in the new partnership. At Susquehanna Health, McClain will act as program director, and Sister Amy Segal, coordinator of market planning and research, will function as projects director and class liaison.

Penn State’s professional Master of Health Administration degree provides students with the requisite knowledge, skills, and values for administrative positions in the increasingly complex, fast-growing health care sector. M.H.A. graduates become executives in hospitals, health systems, skilled nursing facilities, insurance companies, consulting firms, home health agencies, federal regulating agencies, medical group practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, mental health agencies, and clinics.

Susquehanna Health is a three-hospital health system including Divine Providence Hospital, Muncy Valley Hospital and The Williamsport Hospital & Medical Center located in north central Pennsylvania. Serving patients from an 11-county region, Susquehanna Health is considered a health care leader and offers a broad array of services that include major centers for heart and vascular, neuroscience, cancer treatment, rehabilitation, minimally invasive surgery and orthopedics and joint care.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.