With several highly regarded health science programs, Adventist University of Health Sciences is successfully feeding the local healthcare talent pipeline with skilled professionals and good citizens.
Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) works closely with Florida Hospital in Orlando to give students the clinical experience and world-class facilities that only a major medical center can provide. But it also provides something more than a good clinical education, and its former provost and new president is determined to have the entire Central Florida region benefit from it.
“Being newly appointed, I’m getting to know everyone in the organization and in a different way than when I was provost,” said Edwin Hernandez, Ph.D., ADU president. “I want to share thoughts with faculty, staff and students on the future of the school. I also want to communicate our mission as a quality healthcare institution and reinforce the special role we play in the community.”
Strong Roots and Strategic Growth
Adventist University of Health Sciences has a rich tradition associated with the 19th-century, pioneering healthcare and education reform movements started by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which operates one of the largest worldwide networks of healthcare and education facilities in the world.
Florida Hospital is the largest of more than 590 healthcare facilities operated worldwide by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Nursing education began at Florida Hospital in 1913. Over the years, the hospital added programs in Radiography (1962), Practical Nursing (1964) and Sonography (1988). In 1992, those four programs were combined to form a new school — Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences. The school became a baccalaureate-granting institution in 1998 with the addition of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In order to reach students across the country, it became an early adopter of online education in 2001.
“Adding degree programs has been strategic and based on the demand in the industry,” said Chris Bordner, ADU Foundation Chair. “The goal of the university is to not only provide students with a great education, but to get them placed in jobs immediately. A large percentage of students wind up at Florida Hospital; the school’s placement rating is outstanding.”
“Numbers without quality, and quality without character, mean nothing. Our distinguishing characteristic is to educate and develop the whole person.”
– Dr. Edwin Hernandez
In 2008, ADU began its first graduate program offering a master’s degree in Nurse Anesthesia. Other degrees followed, including a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in 2011; a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration in 2013; a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies in 2015; and the first doctoral degree in Physical Therapy in 2016.
“The growth and diversification of this school has been accomplished through strong leadership and vision,” said Hernandez. “I feel like leadership made smart decisions early on about building an identity but also rethinking the model over time as healthcare has evolved.”
Educating a Healthcare Workforce with a Heart
ADU strives to create an educational environment that fosters its four core values: nurture, excellence, spirituality and stewardship. From those four ideals, the university has identified seven learning outcomes that inform its curricular and extracurricular endeavors with the goal they be manifested in the lives of its graduates. These include caring, communication, critical thinking, ethics/morality, professional expertise, service to the community and lifelong learning. As a Seventh-day Adventist institution, ADU is Christian-based, but it is inclusive of all faiths and has a culturally diverse campus.
“It’s imperative for the region we have a well-equipped, trained healthcare talent pipeline, but that we also have loving, caring and listening healthcare practitioners,” asserted Hernandez. “Numbers without quality, and quality without character, mean nothing. Our distinguishing characteristic is to educate and develop the whole person.”
Hernandez continued, “Human beings have a spiritual dimension to them, and when frailty of the body occurs, everyone has questions about the purpose and meaning of life. It’s part of the healing process — spirituality leads to healing. A good healthcare education needs to embrace that each person is precious, and it’s our job to enhance the purpose and meaning process. There’s a void in education if this element isn’t part of it. Treatment needs to be humane and compassionate.”
For those looking to learn remotely, ADU offers affordable, convenient online degree programs geared toward the working professional. These programs include:
• R.N. to B.S. Nursing (completion option)
• B.S. Radiologic Sciences (completion degree)
• B.S. Diagnostic Medical Sonography (completion degree)
• Executive Master of Healthcare Administration
• MHA in Strategy & Innovation
With service incorporated directly into classes, ADU students have the opportunity to work in local health clinics providing free care to those in need, to teach healthy habits to local children, and more. This unique opportunity not only deepens student knowledge, but also allows them to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Our goal is to have an even greater presence in the community,” affirmed Hernandez. “Our vision for the next decade is to raise our profile to better attract students and become more engrained in the region as a ‘good citizen.’ We want to shift the notion that we’re the best-kept secret to one of a known and trusted commodity in Central Florida.”
As a CEO (Synergy Wealth Alliance), Bordner understands the importance of trust when it comes to community partnerships, and he feels strongly the intangible of spirituality as a core value in healthcare professionals is a differentiator for ADU. “Business owners want to know something is well run, efficient and effective, and ADU is all of those things,” he explained, “but beyond that, healthcare is a critical component to quality of life in any community, and ADU is raising quality of life by teaching future healthcare professionals that patients are human, spiritual beings, not just head counts.”
Hernandez agrees and believes at the end of the day, the key element to continued success and growth is that students see ADU as a place they can trust, feel safe and feel confident in their growth.
“People are inherently capable of achieving everything, and we believe in our students and encourage this,” he concluded. “We want to demonstrate this to the community. We put the needs of others first and foremost in our minds; it’s about ethics of service and the human tie that binds all of us.”
By the Numbers
• 100 percent of students participate in service learning
• 15,000 approximate service learning hours
• 21 service learning partnerships and affiliations
• 1512 hours of faculty service to the community