In 1969, leaders at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health got a request from State Health director Mr. Jacob Koomen. Could they, he wondered, invent an advanced education curriculum for North Carolina county health directors — and deliver it remotely across the 100-county state?
The answer, of course, was “yes.” This year, that program celebrates its 50th anniversary and its evolution from a state-focused distance education program to a global online enterprise with students from Canada, Germany, Mexico and further afield.
In the beginning, the Gillings School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, home to what is now known as the Executive Master of Healthcare Administration (EMP) program, sent instructors out to Raleigh, NC, to teach classes for county health directors.
As interest in the program increased, the instructors traveled further afield — to Asheville in the mountains and Wilmington on the coast — using UNC’s private plane. Soon, students began visiting campus in the summer.
Finally, technology caught up with academic ambition. The Internet arrived, and the program moved fully online in 2000. The program was a harbinger of things to come: one of the earliest online master’s degrees.
Now, the EMP is a 2-year, 49-credit hour degree program that consistently is ranked in the top three by U.S. News & World Report and Modern Healthcare.
“We average 35-45 students per cohort these days” says Dr. Bill Gentry, an associate professor of health policy and management who has served as director of the EMP program for five years. “We’ve had students from around the world, including India and the Philippines. If you want to manage a hospital, physician’s group or health care nonprofit, this is the perfect program for you.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on November 08