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Christy Ankrom

Christy Ankrom

 

Christy Ankrom ‘19
Senior Program Manager, Telemedicine
The UT Health Science Center Houston McGovern Medical School
Houston, Texas

Why did you choose Texas A&M’s Executive MHA Program?

“I looked at programs all across the country, mainly looking for something I could do at a distance. I chose Texas A&M because I am from Texas and A&M is a big deal here. Also, the value of the Executive MHA program, it really kind of paid for itself. It was one of the more affordable programs and an affordable program like that, attached to such a big institution, it was an easy choice.”

What was your experience like in the program?

“I hadn’t been in a classroom in probably 16 or 17 years. I did my undergrad, I graduated in 2002, and I entered the program in 2017, so I was a little scared walking into it. It really is designed for people who have been in the workforce for a long time and I feel like a lot of my fears were addressed that very first day when we were in class. That really helped a lot in building my confidence for completing the program.”

How did the Executive MHA program prepare and/or enhance your career?

“I was directed to get an advanced degree by people at work, so I walked into it with a chip on my shoulder. When people would ask ‘Why are you here?,’ I would say, I’m here because I have to be if I want to grow in my career. It has provided me opportunities where I didn’t have them before, simply because there’s an acronym after my name. I joke that in medicine you have to have something after your name for people to take you seriously, and that really holds true for  me.”

Did your current job support you and encourage you to get a master’s degree?

“Our department chair and my administrative director both told me that they felt that I would really benefit from doing some sort of graduate education.”

What level of support did you receive from the program during your time as a graduate student?

“One of the biggest things that happened during my time was Hurricane Harvey. We were in our two-month block with Dr. Jennifer Griffith and she had the most compassion and flexibility for us during that time because many of us were displaced from our homes. I think that support kind of continued as a theme throughout as people went through life issues and job issues. I know one of my colleagues had a major project at her hospital, and it was something that took a great deal of her time. The program made room for our careers that were already happening and our personal lives that were happening. It was tremendous support all around.”

What did you think of your MHA courses and competencies?

“My entire career has been in neurosciences, so it was important for me to have exposure to all the different areas of health care operations to understand better how those outside of an academic medical center function. I feel like I got a good taste of all of that throughout all my courses in the two years.”

What did you like most about the program?

“What I liked most about the program are all the people that were in my cohort. It was the best group of people, and I’ve never been in a group - professionally or personally - that immediately just gelled together like we did. We were all very different in what we did and what areas of health care we were in. There were some pretty huge differences from where we were in our careers and where we were in life, and we just gelled together so well. I would have paid twice for the companionship of these people. We talk to each other weekly, we have a group chat, we’re always checking on one another, celebrating our successes, checking on our families, etc.   It has been, I think, the No. 1 thing that I tell people. You can’t put a price on the relationships that you’re building through the EMHA program.”

Was the program flexible with your job? How so?

“During the entire program, I was still in telemedicine and neurosciences at UT Health so my job didn’t really change at all. There was really no effect that the program had on work or vice versa. We went to class on the weekends so it was not really affecting me during the week. I would say the most time we took off was when we graduated because we had to go to College Station. The program is feasible as a full-time employee, as a full-time parent, as a full-time spouse, and being a full-time student. This program is designed for people who are in that stage of life.”

Is there a favorite memory or a personal story you’d like to share about your time in the MHA program?

“Before I started the program I had very little exposure to public health. My first class with Dr. Jennifer Griffith changed the way I look at medicine. She helped us look at health care in such a different light. She gave us another view on how health care should be, and what health care is, as opposed to what we’re seeing, and what we’re being driven to produce. I will be eternally grateful because I now have those public health glasses on in everything I do now, and I am so grateful to her for being such a great professor and teaching us in a way that we really grasped and that spoke to all of our emotions when it comes to health care around the world.”

What type of view do you see when it comes to health?

“I think a lot of our health care decisions are driven by patients who have access to health care. That’s just not the whole picture. I’ve really taken into consideration access for everyone. Health literacy has become a big deal, especially as we move into a more technology-driven health care delivery system. How are we educating people that don’t understand an electronic medical record, or what a patient portal is, or how to use telemedicine? Those are just key things that help our health care program be successful, but its only successful if you could deliver it to people who don’t have a capacity to do so. I do look at the things that we do and how this health care model reaches people who don’t have insurance, or can’t get to the hospital, or don’t have a cellphone with video capability — those are key things to creating a healthier society. Until we really start closing that gap between those who have and those who have not, we’re never going to be the kind of healthy, productive society that we need to be.”

What has changed for you personally and professionally?

“Personally, not much, other than I got a group of new friends, during and after the program. Professionally, I am able to do things that are little more complicated or I am being tasked with things that are a bit more organizational level. I’ve been on a couple of institutional-wide projects in the last couple of years, so, I think even though not much has changed, I think I have changed. I think that’s the biggest takeaway. My career and my life have stayed the same, but as long as I keep changing and evolving and trying to solve problems, I think that’s where the real value comes in.”

What recommendations do you have for future students?

“If you’re looking at doing something like this, do the value proposition work for yourself and take everything out of the picture. Focus on what this program can do for you personally and think seriously about it. Then at the same time, don’t second guess yourself. If you want to do this and you can do this, just go for it. That’s kind of what happened to me. I was so afraid of getting back into the classroom, and I also was a little bit concerned because as an undergraduate student I was not that serious about school and my grades were not what they should be, but what you build after that undergrad degree, that is what you need to put forward in your application. Don’t worry about goofing off when you were 20 years old, speak to what you’ve done since then, and just go for it!”

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