Kay Harrison joins CHBS faculty


By: Caroline Whitlow
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: Kay Harrison

Health services administration professor Katherine “Kay” Harrison went to her first hospital board meeting before graduating elementary school.

“When I was a kid, my uncle used to take my brother and I on two outings a year. For one trip, we were allowed to choose our own, so we would go air boating or have a party for our friends at the lake,” said Harrison. “And then he chose one, and he took me to a hospital board meeting. He was the chairman for a board of directors, and I was just so enthralled by it. The story goes that the next year, I asked to go back to a board meeting.”

An interest sparked so early led Harrison to pursue a degree in medical record administration at the University of Central Florida. She then earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the Medical College of Virginia, now known as Virginia Commonwealth University.

“It took me seven years to finish college, and I paid for all of it myself. When you look back, it’s really not much of your life,” said Harrison. “And it’s what I’m most proud of.”

Harrison has a wealth of professional experience serving as an administrator at Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital for 25 years.

“I had a variety of jobs,” said Harrison. “I started as the Director of Medical Records, worked as a strategic planner, led community health, and for the last eight years I served as a vice president of business development on the senior team.”

Sentara RMH also formed Harrison’s first connections with JMU. For about eight years, she spearheaded RMH’s role in the JMU-RMH Collaborative, which connected the hospital and university in mutually beneficial programs.

“I got to know JMU very well from the outside,” said Harrison. “I loved it.”

She was soon asked to teach as an adjunct. It surprised Harrison how much she grew to love teaching and her students, so she explored opportunities to become more involved at JMU.

“I didn’t think there was the opportunity because I didn’t have a Ph.D.,” said Harrison. “But it seems to me that my peers value my experience in the way that they value how others may have that Ph.D. credential.”

Harrison utilizes leadership skills gained from her hospital experience in the classroom to maximize student learning.

“Good leaders know where they are, know where they need to go, and create a plan,” said Harrison. “In teaching, you know where your students are, you know what they need to learn, and you make a plan. It is very similar.”

Still, she looks forward to growing as an educator by learning new techniques to engage students.

“At lunchtime today, I’m going over to the Rose Library to take a class on motivating students in the classroom,” said Harrison.

Each semester, Harrison teaches five courses including health administration, U.S. and global health, medical terminology, hospitals, program planning and evaluation and managed care.

Harrison goes out of her way to know her students as individuals. Before classes began, each student filled out a questionnaire about themselves and their goals. Harrison keeps all of the questionnaires in a binder so that she can identify students when they come to her for help and best meet their needs.

“I’ve met probably 120 of my students,” said Harrison. “I hope through this semester especially that I’ll get to know them better, especially the juniors that I’ll have again next year.”

CHBS welcomes Kay Harrison and wishes her an excellent start to the 2017-2018 year.

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Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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