Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, John Graham chose to “stay local” for his college education, pursing an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of South Florida. When he decided to continue his education, he didn’t have to look any further than his alma mater, “because once a Bull, always a Bull!” Graham exclaims.
After working as an economic analyst in a real estate firm, Graham found his “true passion” working for MAP Health, a medical insurance advocacy company, as a health research and economics analyst. With the goal of advancing his career and knowledge in data science as director of data and analytics, Graham looked to the online Master of Science in Health Informatics with a concentration in Healthcare Analytics from USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
“I was inspired to pursue my graduate education because I knew it would help me take my career to the next level,” Graham says. “I knew that it would help me learn the latest tools, best practices, and really get different experience in the healthcare field.”
With this desire for a well-rounded healthcare perspective, the program being offered through the Morsani College of Medicine was a key differentiator for Graham, as “there are few schools with such a program, and it’s through USF Health, which is one of the top medical research programs in the country,” he explains. “Not all of the health informatics programs…have that feature, and this is one of the best around.”
While the reputation and recognition of USF Health’s programs were key attractors, online flexibility in a program was a must, as Graham continued to work full time while pursuing his graduate degree. Graham took advantage of the program’s flexibility to move at a faster pace.
“I work full time and I doubled up on courses in the program, so I did not have a lot of free time for myself,” he explains. “The challenge I had to overcome while getting my degree was maintain the focus…keeping that focus and drive through the program.”
This focus and drive served as Graham’s motivators as he pursued his graduate degree. “I kept my eye on the prize,” he says. “I knew that it would benefit me and my company, so I was really motivated to get this done and to learn as much as I could.”
For Graham, that learning began even before he entered the program. In fact, “learning the basics ahead of time” is his first piece of advice to those who are considering enrolling in the MSHI Healthcare Analytics program.
“My advice to future students would be to learn as much as you can on your own before you get into any program,” he says. “There’s a lot of open-source tools and information and data sources out there. Get out there. See what you can do, see what you can learn on your own, then you’ll make the most of the program.”
His own preparation and studies in the program have provided Graham with greater experience and confidence in using various programming languages, with Health Outcomes Research standing out as his favorite course “because of the direct relevance to my current role and how it can directly drive quality outcomes,” he explains.
The immediate application of his education to his work came not only from the course concepts and program instructors, but also from the professional peers Graham found himself interacting with in group discussions and assignments.
In fact, just how engaging these group projects and discussions were with his classmates was what surprised Graham the most about the online program.
He emphasizes, “For anyone who is worried about the online-only aspect, I would say that there’s a lot of group discussion and a lot of group assignments. You’ll work with a lot of different people from all kinds of backgrounds—with nurses, administrators, people from all throughout the healthcare system, and even from different fields. You’ll learn a lot of different perspectives and ways to approach a problem.”
In offering the same rigorous curriculum as the ground-based programs in a flexible schedule of weekly assignments, USF Health’s online classroom experience makes the graduate degree accessible to those balancing full-time careers and commitments, even those who may feel they’re just too busy to go back to school.
“For anyone who thinks they’re too busy to do this program, consider the online aspect,” Graham explains. “You can take it at your own pace, on your own time, and if I can make it work on a full-time schedule, I’m sure anyone can—says the guy with no kids,” he adds with a laugh.
Having successfully maintained his focus and balance between full-time work and full-time school, John Graham graduated with his Master of Science in Health Informatics – Healthcare Analytics in 2020 and he is excitedly looking forward to where his knowledge and experience will take him.
“I’m excited for my career path into healthcare data science, and I hope to one day apply my knowledge to drive healthcare policy at the highest levels.”
See how the MSHI Healthcare Analytics program from USF Health can help to support your career goals.