TJC debuts new bachelor’s degree in healthcare field

It was the first day of school for students in TJC’s newest baccalaureate degree program.

On Thursday evening, the inaugural class of 20 students took their seats and their first steps toward earning a Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) in healthcare technology and medical systems (HTMS).

The program is designed for working professionals who wish to advance into a higher level of management in the healthcare industry. 

During Thursday’s first session, HTMS Department Chair and Professor Dr. Tammy Burnette introduced Dr. Bryan Renfro, TJC associate vice provost for academic and workforce affairs who is also the acting dean of the TJC School of Professional & Technical Programs, and Loretta Swan, department chair and professor of health administrative services.

Renfro said, “This is a historic moment for TJC, it’s a life-changing decision and commitment that you’ve made, and we’re excited to provide this opportunity. You truly are in a groundbreaking program in a lot of ways. We talked to leaders in the industry, and they helped us shape what you’re going to learn because it’s what they said they need you to know to be successful in the workplace. So, as you go through this and you go back to your workplace, you’re going to see how it applies and that’s what it’s all about.”

Designed for students who juggle work and family, the program offers classes in flexible but intensive five-week sessions. This allows students to complete their upper-division courses in five semesters while only attending one night per week.

Swan encouraged class members to manage their schedules carefully.

“Many of you work full-time jobs, so you are going to have to find your routine and find time to do your coursework,” she said. “It’s not easy when you work full time and have family commitments; but I also know most of you from previous programs and I know that you are all very capable and qualified. I know you will be successful.”

Burnette said all of the students in the HTMS cohort hold associate degrees. About half are recent graduates of TJC’s two-year, medical office management or healthcare administration programs.

“Some of them have recently gotten healthcare positions, but they would be entry-level positions,” Burnette said. “This gives them the opportunity to grow into those management positions they want but need the degree to be able to have it.”

The other half of the cohort currently holds leadership -- manager or director -- positions in these organizations. Most are mid-level managers who could be in charge of areas such as revenue cycle, coding and emergency room management.

“These are people who have worked in healthcare for a long time, have an associate degree and have come here to earn their bachelor’s degree,” she said. “I’m excited to see the dynamic that will be created by a class made up of both longtime healthcare professionals and recent graduates.”

Shelly Maxfield falls into the “longtime professionals” category. She’s been employed at Texas Oncology-Tyler for 15 years, working in its clinical research department.

“I started as a temp but worked hard and made my way up,” Maxfield said. “I always believed hard work would take you where you want to go, and it did. However, I reached a point that I knew I would need a degree to go any further, but what I should get a degree in was the question that I couldn’t answer.”

When she started taking classes at TJC in 2011, she was a clinical research project coordinator at Texas Oncology. She earned an Associate of Arts in general studies in May 2016, but the degree was not specific to her career.

“While taking a class for medical office management, I met Dr. Tammy Burnette,” she said. “She informed me of a new associate degree being offered in healthcare administration. This sounded perfect for me. This was the degree I was looking for.”

In May 2017, Maxfield became the program’s first graduate, earning an Associate of Applied Science in healthcare administration.

The new baccalaureate program is Maxfield’s next logical step.

“In order to promote within Texas Oncology Research, I knew that I would require a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “With the many opportunities available to me due to my extensive experience in clinical research, successfully completing the BAT degree will only open more doors.”

Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president for branch locations and district provost, said, “Degree attainment leads to social mobility and the opportunity for a better quality of life, and we wholeheartedly celebrate those who served in a leadership role to see this new applied baccalaureate degree become a reality.”

For more information, go to www.tjc.edu/HTMS.

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