Manasa Pallapolu discovered she had an interest in health care administration while on the pre-med path at Drexel University. After graduation, the Fairfax, Va., native worked as the head of medical billing at a psychiatric office, where she was exposed to “a completely different side of health care.” She decided to return to school to pursue a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree.
“I wanted an established program with an extended residency component,” she says. “I wanted to go to a school that had strong connections to a top hospital network or insurance company. When I was looking at where alumni ended up in their careers, I knew [the MHA program at Pitt Public Health] would be a good program for me.”
Pallapolu already has benefited from the Department of Health Policy and Management’s widespread connections with major health care organizations like UPMC. During her first week in the program, she and her classmates met with top administrators at UPMC Presbyterian hospital, who took time out of their busy schedules to talk with them and give them a tour. Through her extended residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, she is able to spend 18 months working on various projects side-by-side with top executives like Nick Barcellona, vice president and chief financial officer of Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
“The fact that this administrator is willing to act as my preceptor and guide me through the residency is amazing,” says Pallapolu. “I have friends in other MPH/MHA programs throughout the country, and they do not nearly have the experience that we have access to. A lot of other programs do not have the extended residency or it is unpaid and is the equivalent of a college internship. At Pitt, I am getting the best experience possible, and I am treated as another member of the team and not like a student.”
Pallapolu appreciates the relevancy of her course work—that she can immediately apply what she’s learning to her residency—as well as the open dialogue students enjoy with faculty members like Associate Professor Kevin Broom through monthly roundtable discussions that address problems and “hot topics” in the program. She also loves her new city and says she was surprised by how nice Pittsburghers are, how excited they get when they find out she’s a Pitt student, and how safe and comfortable she feels.
Upon graduation, Pallapolu hopes to complete a fellowship or go into health care consulting and take advantage of HPM’s vast alumni network. “The program has set me up with great mentors that have experience with fellowships and consulting positions,” she says. “I know I have a point person to answer all of my questions in those respective companies and career paths.”