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Real-World Experience Strengthens UMD's Health Care Management Program

UMD student Jessica Mendez Jeffers  
UMD Senior Jessica Mendez Jeffers  

"My pursuit of higher education and going back to school after my cancer relapsed made me a great cancer advocacy candidate,” said Jessica Mendez Jeffers, a UMD senior majoring in Health Care Management and Economics and minoring in Psychology and MIS.

Volunteering Matters

UMD’s Health Care Management program, at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics, encourages students to volunteer.

Mendez Jeffers serves as a volunteer on the Oncology Patient and Family Advisory Council at Essentia Health in Duluth. The council is made up of cancer survivors, caregivers, and providers. They meet once a month to discuss issues such as clinical trials, complementary therapy, and resources that have benefited survivors, as well as those who are newly diagnosed. They also try to figure out different ways to get the message out about care, treatment, and other information. The council strives to solicit information from survivors about the best methods to communicate with patients and surveys them about treatments. Mendez Jeffers was approached by Essentia's program manager of Caring Ways Cancer Resource Center, two years ago, because she is a cancer survivor.

In February 2010, while working as a wardrobe supervisor for Disney On Ice, Mendez Jeffers was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She returned to her hometown of Moose Lake and began being treated at Essentia in Duluth. She received chemotherapy and radiation. Her first relapse was in January 2011. She had her first autologous stem cell transplant at the UMN Medical Center in July 2011.

She started at UMD in September 2012, but relapsed again in March 2013. She had another stem cell transplant in September 2013 and returned to UMD in January 2014.

"My professors have been very supportive and understanding about my treatment and doctors appointments,” said Mendez Jeffers. “Cultivating these relationships between professors and students is beneficial to both parties. Students should be trying to make connections with their professors, because each professor has their own experiences and point of view on different topics.”

“My second relapse shaped what I wanted to do as a career and what I wanted to accomplish in my life,” said Mendez Jeffers. “Initially I was majoring in MIS and Organizational Management. However, I found the major in Organization Management was very broad. After my second relapse, I figured out what I wanted to do and decided to pursue the Health Care Management degree. Health Care Management seemed the best path to follow in order to accomplish my goals as a patient, for advocacy, and to improve the health care system as a whole.”

Her major and minors have helped her on the council, and her activity on the council has helped her with her school work.  

“In my Health Care Organization and Management class, I was able to take some marketing research from my work on the council and integrate it into one of my projects,” she said. "I was also able to share that information with the class, so everyone was able to use it in their own work. One of my psychology courses had a chapter on complementary treatment, alternatives medicines, patients thought about it, research opinions, and statistics. This data helped me create more informed decisions in my own life and ideas for the council.”

After college, Mendez Jeffers hopes to be a hospital system administrator or a health care policy maker. 

UMD student Chris Taylor  
UMD Senior Chris Taylor  

Internships Required

“When I came to college I had little to no knowledge about how insurance works,” said Chris Taylor, a UMD senior majoring in Health Care Management. “I understood the basics, deductibles and such, but learned more through my courses at UMD. Now, I am trying to help others understand insurance like I did.” Taylor is interning as an events coordinator with Generations Health Care Initiatives.

"Internships are experiential learning,” said Kim Dauner, assistant professor of economics. “Students learn about the field that they are going into and also how to do that particular job. Internships also engage the brain differently. For many students some aspects of health care management does not click until they are in the field doing it.” Students in Health Care Management are required to do an internship.

Generations Health Care Initiatives is part of Insure Duluth, a coalition of 16 organizations supported by funding from MNsure. Insure Duluth seeks to help residents in the Greater Duluth area understand the new health coverage opportunities available. Taylor sets up educational events for young adults to explain how insurance works, how to access health insurance, and to tell them about the programs set up for them.

“Students are considered lower income because they earn under $15,000 a year and can get medical assistance,” said Taylor. “Students can only be on their parents insurance until they are 26 years old. MNsure and other programs can help them with very little or no cost to them.”

After college, Taylor wants to be a hospital or clinic administrator.

“This internship has helped me network with people and organizations,” said Taylor. “It has help me build connections within the healthcare system and medical system. The internship has also helped me realize other's points of view and how fortunate many students are.”



For information about the Health Care Management program, go to the LSBE website.





Written by Katarina Menze, March, 2015.

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