Chair's Blog

By Reid Oetjen, PhD posted 10-02-2023 13:59

Quality is in the AI of the Beholder…. I mean the Eye of the Beholder!
When I think of quality, Philip B. Crosby, author of the book Quality is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain comes to mind, as he made his home in Winter Park, Florida, which is close to where I live. Crosby emphasized that "quality is free," meaning that investing in quality from the outset will ultimately save money compared to the costs incurred by not doing things right the first time.  My Dad also impressed upon me that if you care about a task or job and you want a quality outcome, do it right the first time!  Like most of you, I value quality.
Despite research proving that multi-tasking is inefficient, it is heralded as a virtue.  In our daily roles as faculty, our universities are increasingly asking faculty to do more with less.   No longer is our focus solely on the three-part mission of academia: research, teaching, and service.  At a minimum, we are expected to be excellent in all three of these areas... which is a daunting challenge in itself.  In addition, we are expected and required to lead student recruitment efforts, serve as mental health advocates, spearhead grant initiatives, forge strong ties with the community and local healthcare sector, globalize our curriculum, harness advanced technology for superior online educational delivery, and consistently advance our professional expertise.
The pressure continues to mount as our enrollments have shrunk, faculty are not replaced as they retire or leave the field, and resources dwindle.  As new legislative mandates are created, we are increasingly asked to complete administrative tasks such as completing institutional reports, complying with legislative mandates, and writing accreditation reports. It is easy to get overwhelmed and ask ourselves, “Do I really have the time, energy, or resources for quality?  Does it really matter?”
Why Quality Matters
Healthcare is perhaps the industry in which quality is of the utmost importance and the consequences of delivering poor quality care can be deadly.  As fellow educators, you understand the importance of producing future healthcare leaders who understand the noble obligation of setting an uncompromising standard for quality.  Thus, we are tasked with delivering the best education so that our students are equipped with the values and tools to deliver on this critical task.
In addition, I know that you, my AUPHA colleagues, continually strive to be better and to look for new ways of delivering the best education.  I have seen your dedication and passion firsthand through your engagement with AUPHA.  We know that consistent quality builds trust, and strengthens our relationships with one another, our students, and the field.  We also know the intrinsic feeling of fulfillment that we get when we do something that is high-quality.  Quality is a proxy for who we are!
Tackling the Challenge of Quality
So, how do we balance the demands of our fast-paced world with the commitment to quality as an association, as faculty, or in all the roles that we are asked to play? As the title of this article states, quality is in the AI of the beholder.  For those of you who know me well, I love dad jokes and puns!  
I believe that AI has the capacity to help us deliver on the demands that we face as faculty.  The 2023 Annual Meeting was a true embodiment of AUPHA's unwavering commitment to quality and hosting cutting-edge workshops.  I know that the 2024 Annual Meeting will likely offer many more educational sessions utilizing AI to deliver more efficient and relevant education to our students and the field. 
I applaud my colleagues who are bravely leaning into the use of artificial intelligence (AI) rather than cowering in the corner, afraid that it will replace us.  Many in the academy choose to condemn and dismiss it, but AUPHA and its members have chosen a different path.  Let's explore how AI is reshaping the landscape of higher education and how this specifically applies to AUPHA's mission of shaping the future of healthcare administration.
Enhance Teaching:
I believe that we will continue to leverage AI so we can do more with less.  I look forward to seeing how our membership utilizes AI to design dynamic curricula that deliver more personalized content to our students.  Moreover, we can use AI to give better and more timely feedback to our students.  The future of AI may enable us to create dynamic learning materials, such as simulations or virtual interprofessional experiences (IPE).
AI has the ability to help us advance our research agendas and will be used more and more to help us glean insights from complex datasets, leading to more timely and accurate conclusions.  The predictive analytic abilities of AI can help us to identify trends and patterns that we often miss.  In addition, AI may help us to forge collaborative partnerships between researchers across the globe.
Just like AI can personalize student learning, AI can help us to identify trends in membership and continuously discern member needs and preferences.
AI can help us to respond to emails, create responses to many of the reports that we are required to complete, and digest large chunks of knowledge so we can stay abreast of the deluge of information that is necessary in today's world.  AI can be our new personalized office assistant and help us by sending reminders for deadlines and compiling reports, freeing up administrators for more strategic initiatives that require critical thinking.  Another creative use of AI may be to help us sift through student applications and identify exceptional candidates who might otherwise be overlooked.  The use of AI to help us with daily tasks that do not need our valuable thought and attention is fertile ground that we need to explore and leverage AI.
Quality is important and I believe AI can help us do more with less and continue to enable faculty to do what we, as an association, have done for over 75 years – “Improve the delivery of health services – and thus the health of citizens – throughout the world by educating professional managers.”  It is clear that our future and the future of delivering quality in all facets of our jobs is AI-enhanced.  While speed and efficiency are valuable in many contexts, they should never be valued more than quality.  I believe that AI is just another tool for us to harness and use to deliver quality… it is not a panacea.  As good as AI is or will be, it cannot replace the passion, caring, and spirit of our members.  
I challenge you to use AI to assist you with your work as educators as you engage with students, research, service, and administrative tasks. I believe that AI can free us from mundane tasks that do not require critical thinking and allow us to focus on what is important to our field. I am confident that together we can foster “excellence and innovation in health management and policy education, and scholarship” by harnessing AI.  I look forward to the journey and learning from all of you!