By Andrea Klick, student reporter
USC Price alumnus Dan Mirakhor first entered the job market in 2012 and was surprised by the number of potential employers who asked about hard skills in software tools. Thankfully he had experience, but it hadn’t come from the classroom.
Mirakhor spent his undergraduate years at UC Berkeley and pursued his Masters of Health Administration (MHA) at USC Price. “While I was in school, I really just had to pick up these skills on my own,” Mirakhor said. “Searching through videos, working with friends, and when I got my internship while I was in grad school…I was just kind of learning on the go.”
After graduating and while doing recruiting work as the Director of Network Growth and Strategy at Optum, Mirakhor happened to work closely with program administrators at his alma mater, the Price School. He again recalled the gaps he found in his past courses.
It would be useful, Mirakhor thought, if MHA students had a class that broke down tips and tricks for using various software in the workplace – so he pitched the idea to USC Price, and a plan was set in motion.
Now, Mirakhor is teaching a new course on the real-life applications of data analytics software in health policy. Even though he had never created a course before, Price leadership helped him work through formatting a syllabus and creating a curriculum. “The goal of the class is to prepare students, not necessarily even for post-graduate positions, but for their first jobs and internships even while still in the MHA program,” he said.
Mirakhor uses a case study format to make the skills students learn more applicable to their future jobs. That way, when students learn about data cleaning, presenting and analyzing, it directly relates to real-life health policy information, like mortality and readmission rates.
The course transitioned relatively easily as the pandemic closed in-person classrooms, thanks to the video tutorials Mirakhor previously created. Noting how easy it is for online classes to become stagnant, he said, “One thing I did not want to do was create a class that resulted in me standing in front of the class and going through Excel, which is the whole reason I created the video tutorials.”
One of Mirakhor’s Spring 2020 students, Usama Zia, a new MHA graduate, took the course last spring and said he uses the skills he learned every day in his current residency at Optum, which Mirakhor helped recruit him for while Zia was taking his course.
“Because I knew basic data analytics skills, the transition into the residency program was far easier,” Zia said. “[Mirakhor] brought in a very real perspective. From being a student not too long ago and then advancing and launching his career, he kind of understands the challenges of entering the workforce, after attaining his MHA degree. It’s still competitive, but he and his guest speakers really presented what they look for in potential candidates and how to really present yourself to kind of get started in your career.”
In Mirakhor’s second year of teaching the course, he continues to hear positive reviews. A number of students reached out after last semester’s course ended, asking for his video tutorials as resources as they started new jobs and internships. This semester, Mirakhor’s co-worker Antoinne Harris, Regional President at ChenMed and a fellow USC MHA alumnus, is co-teaching the course to help students understand the operational side of health care and how data is used to create and implement changes.
“Just thinking back to me, where I picked up a lot of this stuff on my own, I think having a course like this will really benefit students; especially first year MHA students who don’t have a background in data and analytics…some of us just need a little more support,” he said. “It’s been rewarding to see students understand the real-world applications of the course and transfer the skills they learn immediately over to the workplaces they join.”