As director of the program in hospital administration at U-M from 1970 to 1982, and later chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy from 1987 to 1991, John Griffith taught countless SPH students how to run a hospital. His legacy is global. SPH graduates have held leadership positions in hospitals throughout the U.S. and as far away as Taiwan, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.
Griffith began studying hospitals and hospital administration in an era before the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, when the chief challenges facing health care executives, as he remembers, were issues like how to "keep the medical staff from revolting or insulting nurses, or vice versa." Funding shortages and a "lack of sophistication of governing boards" also posed problems.
Through both his teaching and his widely used textbook, The Well-Managed Healthcare Organization, first published in 1987 and now in its eighth edition, Griffith helped usher hospital administration into a new age—one in which quantitative measures and evidence-based protocols replaced personal opinion and anecdote. Griffith's innovations inspired health care organizations and their leaders to adopt best practices, which in turn led to higher performance, cultures of empowerment, and drastic improvements in quality of care. Griffith also helped change the face of his field by actively recruiting women and African Americans to the profession.
Throughout his career, he has been driven by his conviction that health care management is a science, not an art, with specific "processes and measures and structure." Asked in 2010 to name the award or accomplishment he was proudest of, Griffith gave this quintessentially self-effacing answer: "No prize was as good as the game itself."
An assistant professor of health management and policy at SPH and the founder and director of a consulting firm serving hospitals and health care systems throughout the U.S. and Canada, Rogers is steeped in the new culture of health care administration. The term itself, she explains, is indicative of the seismic shift health care is undergoing across the U.S. "Health care is the industry of health—which is very different from what a hospital is. That's a paradigm shift."
Hospitals today, Rogers says, are expected to play a much greater role in the national health care landscape, in part by addressing health disparities whose roots often lie in social problems. In most communities, hospitals are also major employers and powerful economic engines, and their leaders are expected to play significant community roles. They must also know how to navigate the vast ecosystem that surrounds the health care enterprise.
"We are not just producing people who can work in this industry," Rogers says of her work at SPH. "We are producing people who can lead in this industry."
One of her primary aims is to ensure that future health care leaders know how different members of the health care team work. Toward that end, she takes MHSA students to the U-M School of Nursing to see firsthand how nurses are trained and what bedside care looks like in a range of settings. Without this kind of experience, she says, "the first time students get exposure to other members of the team is their first day of work."
The GLC works similarly to introduce students to the realities of health care administration by bringing in a half-dozen fellows a year —often SPH alumni who are industry leaders—to conduct workshops and help faculty and students gain new insights into the field.
Health Management and Policy students visit the School of Nursing for a hands-on experience designed to create awareness of what it means to be part of a complex health care system, at the nurse-to-patient level.