For students with specific career ambitions, a joint degree can be a valuable investment. As part of a continuing series on joint degrees, this post discusses the JD-MHA (Master of Health Administration) degree.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the most recent National Healthcare Expenditure was $2.9 trillion dollars, an amount greater than the entire economy of France (measured by gross domestic product). In addition to its immensity, the healthcare industry is also one of the most regulated. For students interested in healthcare law, the joint JD-MHA degree offers the training to navigate this booming industry’s distinctive legal procedures and business practices.

Clint Hugie, who will graduate with a dual JD-MHA in 2015, described an MHA as an MBA but with healthcare-related case studies. Allison Davis, a JD-MHA student who will graduate in 2016, agreed. “The MHA program is about healthcare operations and caters to future CEOs and CFOs.”

Despite their mutual interest in healthcare, Davis and Hugie intend to pursue different career paths. Davis came to law school focused on public policy work but has discovered a passion for law firm practice. She sees an MHA as essential to that kind of work. “MHA programs train the people who will be your clients at law firms,” she explained. “Understanding how they’re trained to address problems is extremely valuable, especially because most problems they encounter are business problems with a legal dimension, not purely legal problems.”

Meanwhile, after Hugie graduates he will begin working for Kaiser Permanante, the largest managed care organization in the country. Hugie sees himself as a “translator” between the medical staff who are focused on patients and managers who are focused on keeping the hospital profitable. “The two goals are not mutually exclusive, but providers and administrators encounter different business pressures and legal duties. This can lead to miscommunication that in turn creates tension and sometimes conflict between people who are on the same team. My role is to be an advocate for patient care through solving these communication problems.”

--Jay Stirling | December 17, 2014