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July 2, 2012

Trinity College introduces health care policy program

Photo / Pablo Robles Adrienne Fulco (far right), associate professor and director of public policy and law program at Trinity College in Hartford, teaches a class on the Affordable Care Act.
William Barnett, director of graduate studies, Trinity College

Trinity College of Hartford is introducing a new graduate program in health care policy, a complex field that continues to grow.

The program is not a major, but a concentration in the master's degree public policy program. Trinity is offering two summer classes to kick-start the program, providing students with the chance to familiarize themselves with course content and program faculty. The program starts full-time in September.

"This program is not a public health program," said William Barnett, director of graduate studies at Trinity College. "It is unique in the sense that our program's emphasis is on policy issues as they pertain to government, ethics, and economics all together."

Stephen Frayne, senior vice president for health policy at the Connecticut Hospital Association, said Trinity's program will help as the health care industry increases in complexity.

"Trinity's program will help educate our future leaders in this crucial subject area of health care, which we all need and depend on," said Frayne. "Health care needs to be high quality, efficient, and provided at a reasonable cost, and training young individuals how to put all aspects together in a sensible manner seems to be a great endeavor."

The new program will focus on the economic and ethical aspects of health care. Trinity believes the program will draw employees of Hartford's health insurance providers, government, legal organizations, health care providers, and nonprofits.

A majority of students interested in this program are adults, said Barnett. Many practicing attorneys, teachers, and business executives will bring experience to the classroom, and won't be easily intimidated.

"What we want for our students is for them to take on research projects and final assessments that community organizations involved in providing health care can benefit from," said Barnett. "We want our students to be influential."

Trinity developed its health care policy program to be different from traditional public health or health care administration programs at other Connecticut schools, although Trinity does anticipate collaborating with other institutions and their similar programs.

"As our program here at Trinity gets going, we hope to cooperate with some of these other programs, allowing partnerships to develop, flourish, and encourage students to develop a depth of knowledge," said Barnett.

Barry Schaller, a former associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, is a program instructor. He has published books and articles on the law and ethics of health care.

Adrienne Fulco, associate professor and director of the public policy and law program at Trinity, is the professor of a summer class being taught on health care policy.

"The biggest challenge of teaching this course is presenting the multi-dimensional nature of health care as a discipline," said Fulco. "I want to orient my students properly so they can really understand what is important, and what the industry is truly all about."

Using the debate around the Affordable Care Act, Fulco plans to assist students to distinguish between political framing and the actual substance, disregarding most of the media attention that cloud the real issues.

Because of the many major insurance and health care players in central Connecticut, Trinity figures the corporate community will develop a symbiotic relationship with its program.

"I don't think we would have undertaken this program if it wasn't for the constellation of insurance providers, healthcare providers, and state government officials so close in proximity," said Barnett.

The program will integrate internship opportunities for students, said Barnett. Senior officials of organizations such as Hartford Hospital and Aetna will serve as participants and experts in health care.

"We're talking about an issue that goes to the economic heart and soul of the region," said Barnett.

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