CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 10, 2014 — Dr. Natallia Gray joins the Donald L. Harrison College of Business faculty at Southeast Missouri State University this fall with a worldly perspective on healthcare economics.
Gray brings a diverse background to Southeast where she will be teaching courses for new health-related academic programs launching spring 2015, including the new Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management, the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Healthcare Administration and the Master of Science in Healthcare Management, in addition to several graduate certificates in healthcare management.
Gray is currently teaching Principles of Microeconomics and Managerial Economics and will add Healthcare Economics to her responsibilities next spring. The Healthcare Economics course will be a requirement for the Health Administration option of the program but also will serve as an elective for the two new Bachelor of Science degrees approved by the Board of Regents this year. While Gray’s primary focus is teaching and conducting research in healthcare economics, she also will serve as the graduate advisor for the Master of Science in Healthcare Management program.
Dr. Bill Eddleman, Southeast provost, said the Academic Visionary Committee advanced these programs because of the growing health care field and to bring Southeast’s health programs together. The Committee, he said, recognized the need for these programs, both to take advantage of Cape Girardeau’s designation as a medical “hub” and the possibilities for internship and employment opportunities for students, and to meet the needs of the region as the healthcare field continues to grow. The new programs, he said, have been designed with input from local healthcare professionals and are in new and developing fields of study.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in the medical and health services management category will grow 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. Many of these employment opportunities will be in the areas of marketing, human resources, finance and administration positions, he said.
The focus of Southeast’s new Healthcare Economics classes, says Gray, will emphasize economics in relation to healthcare. Healthcare expenditure, she says, in the United States is much higher than any other country in the world and accounts for roughly 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
“Understanding how that money is spent and how the healthcare system functions is the primary focus of my class,” she said.
“In addition, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it will become crucial for physicians, hospitals and drug manufacturers to reduce inefficiencies associated with providing health services and demonstrate the value of their services or products,” Gray said. “Thus, students who take the healthcare economics course will learn how to conduct cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis – one of the most valuable job skills for a person working in today’s healthcare industry,” she says.
“Finally, since economics is a study of how people make choices in the presence of scarcity and how incentives affect those choices, the course will also explore production and consumption of health and healthcare. This part of the course studies behavior and various incentives that consumers and providers of healthcare face,” says Gray.
Gray says students will benefit greatly from taking her microeconomics classes as well.
“According to Forbes Magazine 2012 and 2014, economics (microeconomics to be specific) is the #1 course on the list of six courses that make any college graduate employable,” she says. “The reason, in my opinion, is that microeconomics teaches critical thinking like no other course in the curriculum. In my class in particular, students are asked to reflect on many life events through the principles that we learn in class. In addition, students are given the room to form their own opinions about political and economic events. They also learn a number of career relevant skills, including good writing habits, presenting, working in MS Excel, and working as a team,” says Dr. Gray.
“When it comes to my pedagogy, I’m constantly trying new things in the classroom, be it a project related to student’s life, computer exercise, or a creative classroom experiment. I have conducted a number of experiments in my microeconomics classroom this semester. For example, so far have I sold classroom chairs to students to demonstrate scarcity, soaked students in cologne to teach externality, and announced a monetary prize for best end-of semester project,” she says, “and so far students seemed to like that.”
My colleagues in the Harrison College of Business share the passion for teaching and I am also learning a lot of new things about classroom design from them.
“In the future, I would like to involve my students in community-based projects in collaboration with local healthcare providers. But I still have a long way to go to make such learning happen, given that I am new in the area,” says Gray. “So far I’m just getting adjusted to all of my new responsibilities at Southeast and learning who my students are and how to work best with them.”
Gray holds citizenship in both the United States and Belarus, her home country. Living in Belarus, she says, allowed her to see a different side of the healthcare sector, contributing to an appreciation of the United States and its healthcare system.
“Being born and raised in a socialistic country definitely gives room for a few interesting teaching moments in my classrooms,” she said, adding her experiences as the child of a diplomat provided her with worldwide knowledge.
“My most interesting memory from childhood is living in India for two years. India is a very beautiful country and someday I hope to visit again,” she said.
Gray attended Belarus State Economic University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in tourism and hospitality management. She moved to the United States at the age of 21, and attended the University of Southern Maine. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in economics. She further earned a Master of Arts in Economics and her doctoral degree in healthcare economics at the University of South Florida (USF),
At USF, she learned professional writing and programming skills necessary to conduct research in economics, and said she was fortunate to work with two outstanding researchers in the field of Health Economics: Dr. Gabriel Picone of USF and Dr. Frank Sloan of Duke, who engaged her in fascinating research.
Her career goals are to conduct research in health economics meaningful to an everyday person and to publish her findings in top field journals; to develop long-lasting relationships with students through teaching economics to those who want to be successful at their jobs, become intelligent consumers of economic information, and form their own opinions about economic events.
“Speaking of my career goals in most general terms, I just want to grow, both professionally and personally, and help my students do the same”, she said.
She said she chose Southeast because it was a natural fit for her and allowed her to pursue her academic interests.
“I like the combination of teaching and research responsibilities that this position offers. In graduate school, most of my colleagues wanted to become either teachers or researchers. I could never decide which one of the two roles of a professor I liked better and, honestly, I couldn’t be happy if I had to choose one. Here, at Southeast, I don’t have to make that choice, because I can do both,” she said.
When asked what advice she had for Southeast students, she responded that students should remember that “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”, explaining that “getting a college degree is not an easy task and semesters can be very overwhelming for students, so setting small goals and keeping a steady learning pace to prevent burnout is the key to success,” says Gray.