Sometimes a class can inspire a person to greater heights. It happened to Carl Whittenburg, BA ’91, in a distance-learning course at UC, where world-class faculty and technology combine to deliver a growing menu of innovative curriculum.
For Whittenburg, that inspirational spark came from Jim Evans, professor of Operations, Business Analytics and Operations Management in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, and the online course he teaches Health Quality 2: Total Quality Management (OM 7042).
The course is part of the Masters in Health Administration (MHA) degree offered through UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences, where the delivery format is 100% online and the business component of the healthcare degree is taught through the Lindner College of Business. The unique business-health program combines faculty and industry experts from two different disciplines and students gain by hearing terminology from both worlds.
In the online business course taught by Evans and Sarah Ceselski, senior quality manager for the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State Medical Center, Whittenburg learned strategies to improve the quality of care using the Baldrige Healthcare Criteria for Performance Excellence.
“We analyzed our own organization using the criteria to gauge our current state and what we could do to improve our internal process,” Whittenburg, director of business affairs, says of the Department of Radiology at UC's College of Medicine.
Intrigued and inspired by what he learned, Whittenburg visited the Baldrige website, where he noticed applications were being accepted to become a Baldrige Examiner.
Encouraged by Evans, he applied. In a lengthy and complicated application process, Whittenburg connected what he learned from the online course to secure a prestigious spot on the 2013 examiner roster that includes more than 550 people around the country and more than 10 from Ohio.
“Being selected to serve is a great honor,” he says. “There are only about 100 new examiners selected for the national program each year.”
Whittenburg, who also holds a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix, heads to Baltimore in May to train in the final stages of becoming an official Baldrige examiner. In becoming an examiner, he’ll join the ranks of those who aim to improve competitiveness and enhance performance in schools, businesses, hospitals, governments and non-profits.
Whittenburg began the MHA degree program in 2012 and is part of a growing trend—here at UC and nationally—in the number of students choosing distance-learning options. He is among the second cohort of the program and will graduate in 2014.
Today, 10 UC colleges provide distance-learning options including degree programs, certificates and course offerings. Aside from the partnership degree with the College of Allied Health Science, the Lindner College of Business offers three online certificate options (two in tax and one in business foundations), as well as the Master of Science in Taxation degree.
As the father of three small children with a full-time job, an online degree made sense for Whittenburg. The coursework is equally as challenging as being in the classroom with more writing and discussion, he says.
“At the same time, you have ready help from your instructors and easy access to all the other students in your class,” he says.
Whittenburg says he plans to use what he’s learned as a student and examiner to help his department improve hospital processes such as in physician scheduling, clinical operations, imaging results reporting, budgeting and more.
“I hope to share what I learn with all of our UC Health hospitals, especially the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.