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Alumni support students in new Graduate Business Minor

Ohio State now offers the only business minor in the country designed for graduate students majoring in the health professions. The program started during the summer of 2013 with its first cohort of students: 18 future veterinarians, two nursing students, and a graduate research scientist.

“The demand for a program like this has always existed,” says Nancy Lahmers, executive director of Graduate Programs at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. “There was just not enough space in the curriculum.”

The Graduate Minor in Business in Health Sciences is designed to provide a well-rounded business foundation to health sciences students. Students admitted to the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State are eligible to enroll in this program.

“When they enter veterinary school, about a third of our students self-identify as potential practice owners,” said Dr. Michelle Harcha, director of the Professional Practice Program, a series of classes taught during the first three years of the veterinary curriculum, which provides instruction on topics ranging from communication and business to personal finance and career development. “We are really proud of this partnership with Fisher and the unique opportunity it provides to offer world class business training to our students.”

“There is more of a need for business-focused knowledge and tools based on the economy and healthcare change over the past years,” says John Rensink, associate director for Outreach and Engagement, Graduate Programs in Fisher.

Established through a partnership between Fisher and the College of Veterinary Medicine, the program is the positive result of two separate and important efforts at the university. First, the seven health sciences colleges, led by Executive Dean Lonnie King, dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine, are working together to form creative partnerships to share expertise, and expand common programs. Second, the College of Veterinary Medicine has broadly expanded professional development options for students.

“This is another program that adds value for our veterinary students,” explained Dean Lonnie King. “Ohio State has always been known as a top school for scientific and clinical skills. With a changing economic landscape, we recognized the need to add leadership skills and business knowledge for our students to help them better prepare for their careers after graduation.”

“My ultimate goal is to own my own mixed-animal practice,” said Lauren Elsea, a veterinary student enrolled in the program. “I considered getting an MBA after I finish my veterinary degree. I spoke with Dr. Harcha and [Career Management Director] Amanda Fark. I realized that I could finish this program before I graduate. I was also working part time with Dr. Tod Beckett at VCA [in Hilliard], and he really encouraged me to enroll.”

“I thought: If I learn one thing that keeps me from messing something up after I start my own practice, it’s worth the time and money,” said Luke Morrow. “I have heard from veterinarians that the business aspect of private practice is really challenging.”

The opportunity for students to understand the business side of veterinary practice was also supported by two outstanding businessmen and graduates of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Gil Cloyd, retired chief technology officer for Procter and Gamble, and former chair of the Ohio State Board of Trustees, and Dr. Robert Hummel, chairman of Animal Health International, Inc., one of the largest animal health distribution operations in North America, are both strong supporters of the new minor in business. They are each providing scholarships for several of the students enrolled in the program.

“I recognized from personal experience that this fills a gap in education,” said Dr. Cloyd. “This is a program I wish I would have gotten.”

He believes that students who gain a basic understanding of management and leadership principles are positioned for lifelong learning.

“You have to have a seed for curiosity about a subject before you can achieve continuous improvement,” he said. “This education will provide them with a basic grounding that will lead to advanced professional achievement in their lives.”

Dr. Robert Hummel agrees.

“I’ve been in and out of veterinary practices for 50 years,” he said. “The majority of veterinarians are good at the art of practice. Their degree of success can often be related to the way they manage people, and the accounting side of the practice.”

Veterinary student Jennifer Gregory believes that learning how to give and receive feedback has already broadened her perspective and helped her improve her communications skills.

“I look at interactions differently now,” she said. She appreciated getting to know students in other health science areas as well. “The nursing students offered an interesting perspective in human medicine,” she said. “It’s great to share best practices across disciplines to improve our understanding of important issues.”

Students also appreciate the case-based learning methods being presented by the faculty at Fisher. Class time is spent in discussions, understanding the readings and applying the cases to potential situations.

“I really appreciate the way business success was often equated to understanding the environment, anticipating future changes, and being aware of the unintended consequences of decisions,” added Morrow.

Interestingly, the program initially caused some apprehension with professors at Fisher.

“Our faculty did not know how veterinary students would handle the business curriculum and classroom setting,” said Rensick. Many of the faculty had never taught non-business majors before.

“We ended up being the talk of the college!” said Gregory.

The professors had a wonderful experience with the students, added Resnick. The business minor courses are offered during the summer and are designed to be completed after two consecutive summer terms. The summer schedule was planned so veterinary students wouldn’t have academic conflicts earning a minor along with obtaining their veterinary medical degree. Classes focus on discussions of the articles and application of the principles to real-world situations.

“The classes were really fun,” said Morrow. “We participated in lots of discussion-based learning and teamwork. And every veterinarian I’ve talked to has said, ‘If only I could have done that.’”

The first-year veterinary students in the Class of 2017 are now being recruited for the second cohort in this new academic program.