Mason Alumna’s capstone project led to a career at Booz Allen Hamilton
Mason alumna Nhien Ho always hoped to apply the skills she learned in the Master of Health Administration (MHA) program to help others—and now she is. She mapped a path to her dream by pursuing a capstone practicum project that allowed her to work toward her goal of expanding health services to those in need. In turn, she gained the needed experience to work with health care organizations across the country as a health care consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton after graduating in 2020.
"I pursued an MHA degree because I was interested in doing meaningful work to provide better availability, accessibility, and affordability in health care, and I was able to pursue [those goals] through many opportunities from the program and my professors," Nhien Ho said. "Through the assistance of Dr. Alison Cuellar, I was able to work on a project that centered on analyzing population health for those affected by COVID-19."
Navigating population health data
For her capstone practicum project, she worked with Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), a local nonprofit organization that provides essential resources to families in need. NVFS works with the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program to process applications for families seeking funding through local COVID Support Act funds.
Nhien Ho analyzed population health data from local COVID Support Act funds to identify the characteristics of families who applied for funding, as well as the average time it took families to complete the application and the successful completion rates. Then, she created a population health map of applicant, census poverty, and race data to determine if funds reached individuals who live in areas with the most significant social and health needs. With her research findings, she also advised the NVFS leadership team on increasing outreach initiatives to ensure funding is accessible and attainable for those most in need of support.
Discovering new career opportunities
She believes the experience working with the NVFS leadership team, analyzing health data sets, and learning new skills made her stand out as an applicant when applying for the health care consultant position.
"I was able to leverage my experience working with clients and analyzing health data sets along with my education in quality improvement initiatives and strategic alignment to really speak on the qualifications that [Booz Allen Hamilton] had for the position," said Nhien Ho.
The process of creating a population health map required Nhien Ho to quickly learn new analytic software, such as Tableau, Stata, Lucid Chart, and Social Explorer, to outline the areas that received relief funding. In December 2020, she received a Population Health Analytics Award from the Department of Health Administration and Policy to acknowledge her quality of research and dedication to learning new skills throughout her practicum project.
"Nhien was an outstanding student and did an amazing job on her practicum wherein she conducted an 'Analysis of Covid Support Funds Provided by Northern Virginia Family Service,'" said Alison Cuellar, professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy as well as Ho's preceptor. "NVFS was thrilled with her extensive data and geographic analyses."
Guiding others to pursue their passions
Nhien Ho said that the skills she learned in health informatics, strategic management, and quality improvement prepared her to complete the practicum project successfully. Her practicum project also provided insight into new ways she could help individuals with her master's degree in health administration.
"My practicum experience brought [my attention to] a different area of health care administration that I was not aware of: health data analysis," said Nhien Ho. "This helped me understand the range of options I had for my career. I could make an influence in health care in many different ways, from clinical management and quality improvement to data analysis."
As a proud Mason alumna, she encourages College of Health and Human Services' students to explore their passions in their program and apply for positions related to their goals for entering the health care field.
"Put yourself out there and apply to positions that fit your passion," said Nhien Ho. "Leverage the experiences and education that you have had, and emphasize your transferable skills and the soft skills that you have demonstrated in your previous work."