Ellice Mae Sanchez and Shanessa Stewart will be heading to Duke Health in July to begin their two-year post-graduate fellowships.

Shanessa and Ellice Mae
Shanessa Stewart (left) graduated this May, and Ellice Mae Sanchez (right) plans to graduate in August. (Photo by Ellice Mae Sanchez)

Within the health administration field, there’s a prestigious opportunity for recent graduates to pursue an administrative fellowship. These fellowships are considered the nonclinical equivalent of residency for the healthcare field. Fellows are shown the ins-and-outs of whatever area they’re working in, whether it be a hospital or hospice center, primary care office or physicians group setting. The programs usually run from a year to two years and may focus on a specific project or expose the fellow to a particular area of healthcare.

“It’s a fantastic way for students to get their foot in the door somewhere, get that next level experience under the tutelage of amazing healthcare executives all over the country, and hopefully parlay that into a full-time job, which most of our students have,” says Kourtney Nieves, associate lecturer of health management and informatics and the program coordinator for the health administration master’s program.

I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without the support of my professors and the educational pieces and tools that they gave me.

Ellice Mae Sanchez

Administrative fellowships are competitive, and COVID-19 made them even more so, with facilities facing shrinking budgets or limited face-to-face options. Of the health administration graduate students at UCF, Nieves estimates that 20 to 25 students typically apply, but usually only a fourth of them are successful — simply because of the competitiveness of the limited fellowships available.

For example, this year, institutions that would typically take on a handful of students were only accepting one or two. Factor in that students from any accredited program can apply for this experience, and it’s easy to see how high the stakes are.

UCF students have landed fellowships at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Baptist Health South Florida, Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Duke University.

Ellice Mae Sanchez, who plans to graduate in August, and Shanessa Stewart '21MHA, who graduated this May, both received administrative fellowships at Duke University starting this July.

Sanchez will be working in the private diagnostic clinic at Duke, while Stewart will be working on the primary care side.

“An administrative fellowship is a complete honor. It’s an opportunity for you to continue to explore everything in healthcare and really learn about yourself and what you want to do with your career,” says Stewart. “You also get to network and gain really great exposure that you wouldn’t typically get if you went straight into a job after graduation.”

Both Sanchez and Stewart cite their time and experiences within the UCF health administration program as the reason for their success.

“I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without the support of my professors and the educational pieces and tools that they gave me,” says Sanchez.

Although some fellows may choose to move to other organizations or hospitals after their initial job, the fellowship can act as a launching pad for their careers. “All of our graduates who are given fellowships have secured permanent roles with the organization afterwards,” says Nieves.