Her grandmother’s hospitalization and medical treatment made Andrea Harding believe healthcare could be delivered better. Thanks to her administrative fellowship at Geisinger, she has the chance to work toward that goal every day.
Being first-generation-to-college, Harding said she knew she needed a plan. “My grandmother’s experience made me want to utilize my skills and strengths to positively impact healthcare, but another influential event for me was the passing of the Affordable Care Act. I also wanted to future-proof my career,” she said. “I did a variety of unpaid internships during college and looked for a CAHME-accredited master’s degree program.” CAHME is the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.
Harding chose the University of Southern Maine for a master’s in health policy and management because, as a Wisconsin native who went to college at the University of Minnesota, she wanted to experience healthcare “outside of the Midwest.” While pursuing her master’s degree, she stuck to her habit of meticulous planning by researching administrative fellowships approved by the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE).
“I wanted a two-year program because I wanted a longer, more longitudinal experience. I thought that would give me greater confidence post-fellowship,” she said. “I also wanted an integrated health system because I wanted a variety of experience. That was very important to me.”
Harding’s search led her to Geisinger. “To any future fellow: Please realize you choose the fellowship as much as it chooses you,” she said. “I interviewed at a lot of prestigious places and none of them felt right. I felt several programs were too stuffy, not innovative. Others were just shadowing. At Geisinger, I just felt at home. During the interview, I got to spend time informally with the other fellows and had dinner at my preceptor’s home. I knew if I worked here, I could go to work happy every day.”
Now senior director of Geisinger’s groundbreaking Geisinger at Home program, Harding said her fellowship not only gave her the breadth and depth of hands-on experience she had hoped for, it also helped her to build close relationships with leadership that has introduced her to mentors who are still influential in her career today.
“The Geisinger fellowship encourages you to chart your own course,” she said. “I think I’ve been successful because open-minded preceptors allowed me to work on a diverse portfolio of projects.”