First class graduates from UT Patient Advocacy Graduate Certificate Program

August 12, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Feliza Casano

The need for patient advocates — professionals who act as liaisons between patients and health-care providers — is growing as the health-care system becomes more complex. The University of Toledo is among a handful of schools in the country offering educational programs in patient advocacy to provide those needed advocates.

UT introduced its Patient Advocacy Graduate Certificate Program in fall 2010, and this new and upcoming field now graduated eight new professionals in the northwest Ohio area.

“Approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day and the strain on America’s health-care services will continue to grow. We need patient advocates now more than ever,” said Debra O’Connell, director of the Patient Advocacy Program and a UT research assistant in the Neurology Department. “These recent graduates and the students who will follow them in future classes will be able to assist patients in navigating the complexities of our health-care system, as well as give the patients hope and encouragement.”

The Patient Advocacy Graduate Certificate Program is designed to provide advocates with knowledge about contemporary legal and health-care issues to better enable them to assist themselves and others when making medical decisions and to receive the best care possible.

“I believe in the future people absolutely will need someone to speak up, listen for them, and ultimately protect them from the medical industry as a whole,” said Kathleen Hinds, one of the first graduates of the program. “A patient advocate can fulfill multiple roles for patients and families, and I see this profession as a growing field in the future.”

The two-semester, four-course sequence is a 12-credit hour program and is taken entirely online. The main requirement for the graduate certificate program is to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a 3.0 grade point average. Applicants also need to complete a statement of purpose and submit letters of recommendation.

“The elderly as well as young families who have special needs children and teens are often taken advantage of by those committing fraud,” said Dr. Suzanne Wambold, professor in the Department of Kinesiology, who teaches in the certificate program. “We want to teach them how to get financial and other health-care support they need.”

Students learn everything from the finer points of Medicare and Medicaid to how to find reliable health-care information on the Internet.

The program begins with a course that covers what patient advocates do and sites of employment, as well as an overview of the health-care system. Its companion course involves legal issues, such as wills, power of attorney, confidentiality questions and mental competency.

In the second semester, participants take the last two courses that explore the health-care system as a whole and involve a project for students to view patient advocacy in action.

For more information, click here or contact O’Connell at or 419.383.4341.

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