The last "blended" online master of health administration (MHA) cohort at West Coast University had some firsts.
The class was the first MHA cohort to have a three-way tie for valedictorian. It was also the first time the award went to a male student.
"We literally had to go into every course and look at each student's percentage," WCU MHA program director Justin Ako said during the hooding ceremony. "The dean's academic award was a 1.3 percent difference from the other two students."
The award ultimately went to Aldrin Labadlabad, who called the honor “unexpected.”
“I was hoping for it, but I was surprised,” he said. “I'm elated.”
Labadlabad said he just tried to do his best each course.
“Not being from the healthcare world, I had to learn everything from scratch, so doing my due diligence and making sure I knew what I was talking about and that I could convey it clearly to my professors and colleagues was the most challenging part,” he said.
Coming from a public education field, Labadlabad said he was drawn to the MHA program due to the projected growth of the health care industry.
“I'm just thankful for WCU giving me this opportunity to learn about health care administration and getting to meet a lot of cool people along the way,” he said. “If you have a desire to learn new things in health administration, go for it. I got to learn more about integrated medicine through this program and I think that’s what I'm going to focus on in my career. It’s a vast field and it’s up to you what you want to do with it. There’s so much opportunity out there for us.”
For his part, Dr. Ako said he would always remember the time he had with this cohort. Future MHA classes will be taught completely online, he said, whereas this cohort would visit the Center for Graduate Studies in Los Angeles for the first day of class and to give final presentations.
"I'm going to miss them, because I had the most interaction with them. I put them on the hot seat when I first met them during orientation. They didn't know each other and they literally had to sit on the front stage and I timed them for one minute on why I should hire them,” Ako said. “So they achieved that and we were cracking jokes now about how now I'm on the hot seat, so it's been a pleasure.”