Health Systems Management Launches Executive Doctoral Program

March 1, 1999

Bill Sasser

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has started a new part-time doctoral program in health-care management, the first of its kind in the South and only the second in the United States to offer an executive doctor of science (ScD).

Designed to accommodate health-care professionals who are already working fulltime as clinicians or administrators, the three-year program in health systems management emphasizes studies in health outcomes, cost/benefit analysis applied to health and disease management, said Richard Culbertson, director of doctoral programs for the school's Department of Health Systems Management.

"This is an innovative new approach to executive education for health administrators and policy makers," said Culbertson. "We find that people pursue a doctorate for many reasons--to gain new skills, for promotion, for self-satisfaction--but few people are willing to give up their jobs to undertake full-time studies. The program's focus on mid-career students should ensure lively interaction around the application of cutting-edge research and the current and future challenges in health systems management."

Culbertson added that coursework for the program is at the same level as the full-time doctorate program in health-care management offered by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, meeting all requirements for the school's doctoral degree and drawing on the same Tulane faculty members for teaching and supervision of doctoral theses.

During the first two years of study in the program, students come to New Orleans once a month for intensive, three-day weekends of core curriculum coursework. In their third year, students meet in New Orleans for a weekend session once every four months for research development and dissertation preparation.

"This innovative curriculum reflects the manner in which leading American universities will transfer knowledge to new generations of executives," said David Fine, Regents Professor and chair of the health systems management department. "I'm certain that on-campus, at-home, in-the-workplace learning will prove to be an effective and efficient learning model for mid-career professionals in many disciplines."

The program's first class began in January and includes three physicians, three CEOs of health-care organizations and 14 other health-care professionals. The program expects to graduate its first students in December 2001.

"We were astounded at the high level of interest in the program and the high quality of our applicant pool," said Culbertson. "We exceeded our wildest expectations, in the qualifications of our students and the diversity of their occupations, geography and gender."

While half of the first class of 23 students are from the New Orleans area, others have come from across the United States, including Texas, California, Puerto Rico, Montana and Arkansas. Half of the participants come from clinical backgrounds such as medicine and nursing.

"In some cases they are coming from thriving practices with full clinical loads, and the same is true for the administrators in the program," said Culbertson. "This program allows them to pursue an advanced management degree with minimal disruption of their lives."

Most teaching is done during the three-day weekends on campus, but distance learning is also playing a role in the program and will be used more extensively in the future, said Culbertson. "The program has its own Web site, which not only offers information to prospective students but is being used by professors for coursework and for class discussions. In one class, students are doing statistics exercises via the Internet."

The next class for the executive doctor of science in health systems management will begin in 2001. For more information, call (504) 588-5859 or check the program's Web page at

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000