Courtney Chaffin, a dual master’s degree student in public health and health administration, is committed to advancing public health and making health services more efficient, usable and affordable.
“I want to improve the productivity of healthcare facilities without sacrificing the quality of care,” she said. “I feel drawn to management as I want to utilize leadership skills and integrity in the healthcare field to implement positive change in public health and health system issues.”
Master of Public Health
Master of Health Administration
Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion (BSHP), University of Georgia
Why did you choose to pursue both a Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree? Why UGA?
I chose to pursue a Master of Public Health degree alongside a Master of Health Administration degree, because I am committed to advancing public health and making health services more efficient, usable, and affordable. Obtaining both an MPH and MHA would enable me to manage healthcare systems, understand and create healthcare policies, as well as advocate for proper preventative care. I want to improve the productivity of healthcare facilities without sacrificing the quality of care. I am passionate about improving healthcare quality and access as many Americans are unable to receive proper healthcare services. I am also passionate about mental health as these resources are scarce in Georgia. I feel drawn to management as I want to utilize leadership skills and integrity in the healthcare field to implement positive change in public health and health system issues.
I wanted to continue my education at the UGA College of Public Health because of the positive experiences I had during my undergraduate degree in health promotion. My professors were so invested in my education and invested in making positive changes in the community. I created many wonderful relationships and wanted to continue doing so at UGA. Furthering my education here was no question as I knew the instruction I would receive would be impactful, and I would be surrounded by people who want to see me succeed.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your time at the College?
I had the opportunity to write a white paper for the Athens Wellbeing Project, alongside a group of my classmates, for a healthcare policy class instructed by Dr. Grace Bagwell Adams. This white paper specifically addressed how the lack of childcare availability in Athens-Clarke County affects workforce development. This opportunity allowed me to further develop my ability to research a significant community problem and analyze solutions with the hopes of creating change in Athens. This was most rewarding as this research continues to be used by the Athens Wellbeing Project and other community stakeholders. I am grateful for this experience and believe this research will positively impact our community.
What did you do for your internship, and what have you learned from your internship?
For my MPH internship, I had the privilege of working as the Quality Improvement Administrative Intern at the Piedmont Athens Regional Clay Community Care Clinic. This experience exposed me to the daily operations of an outpatient clinic, administrative relations with physicians, and public health initiatives in clinical settings. I am interested in quality improvement and this experience allowed me to work on improving physician turnaround time. The biggest challenge was working with COVID-19 guidelines present. Clinic operations were slightly altered to meet those standards. The internship taught me the importance of adaptability in healthcare. Providing quality and efficient care is so important, especially through the waves of the pandemic.
For my MHA internship, I worked with St. Mary’s Medical Group, which operates primary care and specialist offices throughout Northeast Georgia. During this experience, I was immersed in the physician recruitment process, engaged with leaders of business development, and worked directly on the hospital’s transition of their electronic medical records to a new software system, Epic. The biggest challenge of this internship was learning health information technology, as I had never worked with an electronic health records system, like Epic, before. My most important accomplishment in this internship was building relationships and professional skills. I worked independently on many tasks, which allowed me to gain confidence in the workplace. This led to being offered a position as a Medical Records Specialist in order to continue working on the Medical Group’s Epic software rollout.
What activities/achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?
I currently serve as the Marketing Committee Chair of the MHA Executive Board, a student organization within the College focused on providing a social and academic network for MHA program students. The MHA Executive Board helps current and prospective students explore career goals and interests by offering information on possible research projects, internships, and job opportunities.
In December 2022, we hosted the MHA program’s first ever Networking and Preceptor Event in which students were able to make connections with healthcare professionals from organizations throughout Georgia. I am so honored to serve on the Executive Board and proud of the success of the Networking Event.
How has the COVID pandemic impacted your educational experience at UGA and CPH?
I started the MPH program at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. My courses were completed online with little face-to-face interaction with professors and classmates. Seeing the effects of the pandemic firsthand in our community motivated me to conduct a lot of my research projects on the effects of the pandemic. I analyzed policies long-term care facilities were implementing during the pandemic, and I decided to focus my capstone project on nurse burnout post-pandemic. Being a public health student while facing the pandemic has shown me the importance of conducting research and analyzing solutions to these issues. The pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, and through this research, we may see community health positively impacted in the future.
What are your plans beyond graduation?
I am currently seeking opportunities in hospital administration. I look forward to utilizing the knowledge and skills developed throughout my time at the College of Public Health to make positive changes to healthcare systems in the future.
Posted February 22, 2023.