SCPS Students Apply Learning to UVA Health Program and Improve Community

UVA School of Continuing & Professional Studies students will tell you that there is a strong connection between what they learn in class and the reality of their lives. 

Because most students have been or are in the workforce, their diversity of experience and backgrounds enriches the classroom. In turn, students find that what they learn in class applies to their personal and professional lives. Two Bachelor of Professional Studies in Health Sciences Management (BPHM) students, Patrick Watson and Taylor Tereskerz, recently exemplified this connection in their work developing a novel program at UVA Health that is improving the community on a daily basis. 

Tereskerz has been a BPHM student since 2020 and has his eyes set on graduation nearing, while Watson is a new BPHM student who recently completed the UVA Edge program. Both are Community Paramedics with UVA Health. As UVA Health writer Eric Swensen explained in his recent article, the Community Paramedicine team has become instrumental in reducing load on the Emergency Department by tending to individuals who visit it most frequently for non-emergency reasons. Paramedics proactively make visits to patients’ homes and go beyond treating symptoms to seek the root cause of problems, working with the patients in hopes of achieving a lasting change. 

The pair explained how the program offers advantages for all involved. In the community, it presents a chance for patients to improve their health while staying at home. For UVA Health, it decreases non-emergency visits to the emergency room and offers greater insight into what challenges individuals face at home by having providers out in the community. Community Paramedics themselves benefit professionally from opportunities to practice in a new and advanced role. 

Tereskerz shared his conceptual idea about the program with Health Sciences Management instructor Mark Erath, a former national Healthcare Consulting Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Parkland Health in Dallas, and Chief Financial Officer and system Vice President of Clinical Service Lines at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. He found a willing and enthusiastic advisor in Erath. Together, they found case studies and best practices, and continued to connect as the program developed at UVA Health. 

Watson and Tereskerz see the broader connection between their educational journey and their professional lives.

Watson credits the UVA Edge program with helping him get back into the practice of learning. He said he is excited for his future and believes that the BPHM degree will help him professionally through familiarization with healthcare economics, trends, finances and data. “I can see how the programs UVA and SCPS offer will pay off in the long term with the real innerworkings of healthcare and modern trends.”

Tereskerz values his access to distinguished professors with deep practical leadership experience in the healthcare management industry. “They have always been excited not only about my academics, but what we achieve personally,” he said, adding that many dedicated time outside of class and continued to engage with him long after he completed a class. “This is just one example of how this world class university can benefit you even well before you graduate." 

The pair is transforming the community through the UVA Community Paramedicine program and are thrilled to see the effects increased evaluation, new connections and added communication with care teams have for patients. Participants have reduced the number of trips they make to the emergency room, decreased the number of medications they take, and have seen improvements in their lives realizing UVA Health’s goals to provide superior value to all – highest quality health outcomes with greater cost efficiency.

Erath shared his pride in what they have accomplished. “Our goal is to teach students so they can implement similar clever approaches in their future settings as leaders,” he said. 

“It makes me feel great knowing we are making big, life-changing impacts on someone’s quality of life,” Watson reflected.

“For most people in our field, this is what we strive for every day,” Tereskerz added. “I am proud to represent the University of Virginia as we continue to expand our reach out into the community, and what it can mean for those that need our services.”