South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday August 15, 2018

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February 2018 - Volume 14 - Issue 8



Bridging Worlds

The journey from academic excellence to real world employment can be confusing for students. That’s why Salvatore (Sal) Barbera, DHA, MS, FACHE, Interim Chair and Clinical Assistant Professor at Florida International University Master of Health Services Administration program is passionate about exposing his students to more than book learning. As a result of a well-rounded faculty balancing academic excellence and contemporary field experience, this year’s inaugural graduate class will be fortified with ‘live from the workplace’ knowledge to draw upon when faced with operational or management decisions.

Dr. Barbera, a veteran of six CEO positions in both proprietary and not-for-profit hospitals and physician practice management companies, emphasizes the value of real world executive leadership preparation.
“While making an academic course plan, our faculty incorporate contemporary resources to introduce current topics into each course. This comprehensive approach is best described as when a professor reviews the academics and then shuts the book and relates that strategy to on-the-job tactics,” he said.
Academic concepts put into practice help teachers articulate concepts to students.
“Any academic theory or solution communicated via a real-world example enhances a student’s grasp of a pattern of critical thinking and makes a lasting impression,” he explained.
Barbera notes, “When I teach, I can always share a story from some point in my career to describe how I reacted to a situation, some according to the books and sometimes not so much. I explain that as a leader you make decisions, some may be the wrong ones; but like any mistake, you learn from it and don’t repeat it.” Students respond positively to these scenarios, as posted on ratings surveys.
Not only does this style of education improve the job marketability for graduating students but it also incorporates a face-to-face industry experience for students embarking on the required administrative residency with local health care organizations.
During the final semester of this 24-month program, students are required to experience an on-site residency or significant Master’s project (if they are already employed) in a local health care setting. FIU residency programs provide local hospitals, and other health care providers the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes, eager to tackle an existing issue and make a positive impact on patient care and satisfaction. It also exposes FIU scholars to a behind-the-scenes career view they may not have considered beyond the world of hospitals. In addition to hospitals, this program prepares them for the nuances of health care environments such as ambulatory clinics, long term and senior care, home health care, physician practices and surgi-centers to name a few. They learn the finance, operations, marketing and quality management issues in an on-line/on campus hybrid fashion.
Barbera leans toward the hybrid path because in 35 years of health care experience he recognizes the importance that values such as empathy and integrity play in today’s headline grabbing social and ethical issues. The on-line convenience factor appeals to working students trying to climb the professional career path ladder. However, the dilemma is to balance the personalized expedient stride of the online program with the face-to-face people skills. Compassion and empathy gained in faculty/student exchange are needed to manage complex health organizations. The difference between this master’s program and others which put heavy emphasis on business and regulatory issues is the expansion of that focus to include relationship management, work force motivation, and navigating the individual and family issues of health care consumerism and compliance. Learning these skills that will be a part of most leaders’ decision-making within the course of managing in the health care field is hard to teach without human interaction.
According to Barbera, “Knowing the technical aspects of health care management is the vital foundation but layering on the skill sets of understanding cultural diversity, family influences and employee engagement will help our alumni travel a path that will enable them to succeed.”
An early leader, FIU originally developed an accredited Master’s program in 2008 with a heavy emphasis on public health policy. In 2016 they pulled it off the shelf, revitalized it to expose students to an enhanced perspective of health administration, and reactivated in Fall, 2016 to encompass the current curricula of theories and issues of managing complex health organizations in both public and private settings. Graduates will be prepared to serve in a variety of administrative roles in the industry. Housed under the University’s Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the first cohort of 20 students will graduate this year and the Spring, 2018 cohort already has 45 students enrolled.

For more information, contact Dr. Sal Barbera at (305) 919-4466 or

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