Doctor of Health Sciences graduate propels his career managing research teams
Taylor Thurston, D.H.Sc., '20, already had a Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Jefferson College of Health Sciences when he decided to get his doctorate. After a stint in the Marine Corps from 2009 to 2014, he had always worked in healthcare, and his work was generally related to research, but he felt like the actual research part of his employment wasn’t where his passion lived.
“The hypothesizing, investigation and analytics just weren’t where I saw my future, so it didn’t make sense for me to pursue a specialized Ph.D.,” Thurston said. “I enjoyed the management and administration part of the research process more than the actual research.”
Thurston decided a more generalized doctorate would serve his career goals more effectively, helping him refine his skills as an administrator. He found that and more in the Radford University Carilion (RUC) Doctor of Health Sciences (D.H.Sc.) program.
“This program gave me a wide breadth of knowledge so that I could approach many different situations while also being able to rapidly shift between topics,” Thurston recalled. “What really gets me excited is seeing our researchers actually get to work on the science while my team serves as project managers, taking the administrative burden off of them.”
Today, Thurston is a senior project manager for CIPHI – Biomedical Informatics, a part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where his team has more than 50 studies under their purview.
“While I don’t manage all of those projects, I get to have a hand in each project, determining team assignments and matching skill sets and interests to different projects,” Thurston said.
Since his graduation from the D.H.Sc. program in 2020, Thurston has been able to steadily advance his career, attributing much of that success to what he learned at RUC.
“I feel like the program really prepared me to be able to work with a variety of researchers on an array of topics while being able to communicate and operate effectively in any environment,” he said. “It allowed me to take ownership of research projects and serve as the responsible person, liaising between our researchers and other teams across our institution and external institutions and funders. I was able to tie my administrative skills to the research world, helping facilitate the overall success of the project while freeing up the investigators to focus on the science.”
Thurston said that prospective students considering a career in healthcare need to know that it is a rapidly evolving, dynamic and exciting field with a range of job opportunities to pursue. He added that RUC is the perfect place for them to build on their strengths and get ready for a career that suits those strengths.
“When I was a student at RUC, I had classmates who were medical coders, insurance salesmen, former clinicians and just about every other field you can imagine,” Thurston said. “Regardless of the healthcare profession you are interested in, the programs at RUC will prepare you to get there.”
Thurston, who used his veteran benefits to complete his education in the program, relied on his background in the military to complete his doctoral capstone project. He focused on support strategies for veteran student success and his work helped bring attention to the need for additional support and outreach for students who are military veterans.
Thurston said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at RUC, highlighting his professors who turned into “outstanding mentors.”
“I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my advisor when I was just starting the program,” he recalled. “I already had a master’s degree in administration, and I was planning on pursuing the administrative track for my D.H.Sc. My advisor really encouraged me to consider the public health track since she felt it would better round out my skillset. I took her advice, and I am very grateful for it, as I feel like it has provided me with a better understanding and more opportunity within the healthcare system.”
Like Thurston, many of the students in the D.H.Sc. program are working healthcare professionals, building upon their experience to reach new plateaus in their careers or explore new professional areas. The program is offered 100% online through a self-paced learning curriculum and helps students evaluate, synthesize and apply an integrative approach to solving healthcare problems from public policy to community health assessment. Students can focus on one of three areas: healthcare administration, community and public health or education and academia.
The terminal health sciences degree can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including as an educator in the healthcare industry or higher education, health services management, clinic management, public health education, health research and more.
“The education I got at RUC was top-tier,” Thurston said. “The professors were a pleasure to work with, and really feel like they did an outstanding job preparing me to go on to a successful career. I can’t say enough to recommend this outstanding program to other students.”