Brinta Thomas, a student in USAHS’ MHS to EdD Bridge program, reached out on social media to tell us about her positive experience. After earning her Master of Health Science (MHS) degree in only four trimesters, Thomas is now working on her Doctor of Education (EdD) degree, with half of her coursework completed after the first trimester, thanks to the Bridge program. And she’s just 24 years old!
“I like that I got this opportunity to accelerate, more than with other EdD programs out there,” Thomas says. “This was one of the key selling points of USAHS. I love the Bridge program—knowing I could easily bridge from my master’s to my doctorate and not have to reapply.”
A Gift for Teaching
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Thomas grew up in “a healthcare family” and always wanted to work in healthcare. While earning her BS in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from the University of Central Oklahoma, she worked part-time in a clinic as a physical therapy tech. Collaborative by nature, she developed an interest in helping her peers succeed in class.
“During my senior year, I was tutoring some classmates in a study room at the library, writing on a huge whiteboard,” Thomas remembers. “My professor watched from the doorway for a while. Later, he told me, ‘I really think you have a gift for teaching. You should consider it as a career.’”
She conducted informational interviews with this professor and other UCO faculty members, asking about their doctoral education, whether they were satisfied in their roles, and whether they had a good work/life balance. Hearing positive stories, she found USAHS online and applied to the MHS program.
Earning Her Master of Health Science
Thomas graduated from college in May 2019, then spent an eventful summer moving to Texas and getting married. She began the online MHS program that September, choosing the Teaching and Learning specialization with the optional MHS to EdD Bridge program. This program allows students to apply up to 30 credits to the EdD, and Thomas is also leveraging the MHS acceleration options by stacking three to four courses per trimester and taking self-paced courses that award credit according to competency assessments.
She enjoyed the in-person interprofessional immersion weekends for the courses IPE 7000 and 7050, held in Dallas in 2019. “It’s good to meet people from different healthcare backgrounds and see them face-to-face,” she says. During the pandemic, however, the immersions went online. “When the social aspect of face-to-face meeting is gone, it’s less distracting, so I can focus—but I miss that element,” she says. In-person immersions are scheduled to return to USAHS campuses in Spring 2022. Thomas still communicates with friends she made during those early immersions.
During her first year, Thomas took the course Evidence-Based Practice for Healthcare Professionals, taught by Stefanie Podlog, RN (German), MSc, PhD. The course includes a patient/population, intervention, comparison, and outcomes (PICO) project. “As a student, Brinta took a flawless approach to her evidence-based practice project, despite the rigor of this course,” says Dr. Podlog. “Her attention to the details, as well as her professional communication, allowed her to deliver exceptional assignments.”
Later, for her comprehensive project, Thomas completed a teaching internship within this same course. She delivered synchronous lectures on Zoom, held office hours, and guided students as they completed their PICO project. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “This was one of my best experiences so far at USAHS.”
Says Dr. Podlog, “[Brinta’s] skills, together with her prior course experience, allowed her to interact with the new students during her internship in an intuitive yet professional manner to provide support and best practice tips. The students very much appreciated this feedback. Based on my experience with Brinta, I see a bright future for her professional career.”
Bridging to the Doctorate
Thomas graduated from the MHS in December 2020 and began the EdD program in January. Of course, she enrolled in the EdD’s Teaching & Learning specialization. For the specialization’s optional internship, Thomas is helping to teach and grade papers for the course Assessment and Evaluation in Health Professions Education, led by Michelle McCraney, MA, EdD. “Dr. McCraney pushes you in a good way, and Dr. Podlog genuinely cares,” Thomas says. “The programs have really great faculty.”
“One of the reasons I chose USAHS is that the EdD focuses on healthcare,” she continues. “All of our assignments are based on health sciences scenarios, such as case studies involving PT, OT, and nursing. You learn about your profession and think about the whole team. You learn how to ask for help from team members so that the patient can have better quality of care.”
Thomas is scheduled to graduate at the end of the Fall 2022 trimester, which would mean earning both her master’s and doctoral degree in an impressive 3 years, 4 months (10 trimesters). But first, she must complete her dissertation. She plans to research how students in undergraduate and graduate school can mitigate stress. When asked if she has personal experience with this issue, Thomas says, “School has been extremely stressful—but I’ve gotten this far because of my husband, parents, in-laws, and siblings. It made me think, ‘How can I help others who don’t have sufficient support systems?’”
To counteract her study stress, Thomas sticks to a schedule of studying from 10 to 5 on weekdays, with no work outside those times. To relax, she hangs out with friends, reads, goes to church, and works out.
Thomas also serves as a personal trainer as a way to earn income and keep her hands-on skills sharp. Working out of the gym in her apartment building, she assesses her clients’ needs and creates customized workout routines for them. Thanks to word-of-mouth, most of her clients happen to be physicians. “Doctors are helping so many people, I want to help them,” Thomas says.
In the future, Thomas hopes to teach kinesiology at the university level. She is already applying for adjunct positions. If all unfolds as planned, she will graduate as certainly one of USAHS’ youngest EdDs so far, and quite possibly the youngest. (Current EdD enrollment spans the decades, with students in their late sixties and late seventies as well.)
“My EdD classmates are geniuses—very smart, qualified, and well-rounded,” Thomas says. “Many are getting their second doctoral degree. I have to remind myself that I’ve earned my right to be here. I’ve been told I’m the youngest student ever to enter this program. I’ve had professors who said I was too young—but that just motivated me more.”
USAHS’ Master of Health Science program is delivered online, with optional on-campus immersions returning Spring 2022. Broaden your knowledge of evidence-based practices, develop the expertise to lead your peers, and enhance your credentials in the fast-growing industry of healthcare. The program offers four specializations: Athletic Training, Health Informatics, Executive Leadership, and Teaching & Learning with the optional MHS to EdD Bridge Program. Choose among accelerated and traditionally paced options and earn your advanced degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers an online EdD program focused on healthcare education. Designed for working clinicians and healthcare educators, the program has two required residencies and optional on-campus immersions returning Spring 2022. Specializations include Nursing Education, Athletic Training, Teaching and Learning (with a teaching internship), and Executive Leadership. Design a customized plan of study that takes advantage of our acceleration options and wide array of electives—and prepare to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals.