Duke University Hospital Experiential Learning Practicum (DUHELP)

Duke University Hospital Experiential Learning Practicum (DUHELP)

How do clinical and administrative leaders make strategic decisions to guide a health system in a complex and continually evolving health care environment? What are the nuances to operating an academic medical center with its three-part mission of patient care, research and teaching? DUHELP is a unique partnership between Duke University Hospital and Fuqua’s Health Sector Management program, in which students work directly with DUH leaders to develop solutions to issues currently facing the health system.

DUHELP projects cover the spectrum of health system capabilities/functions (depicted schematically in the figure below).

A summary of past DUHELP student project opportunities includes:

Market Planning / Interfacing

  • Strategic planning projects (Cancer Network, Cancer Rehabilitation Program, Heart Network, Nursing Services, Primary Care Network design, Quality Network, Telehealth)
  • Marketing projects (bundled pricing for international patients, drivers of primary care referrals, growing Family Medicine, growing Sports Medicine, re-branding Palliative Care)
  • Enhancing the patient transfer process from external facilities

Care Delivery (projects have addressed ambulatory, inpatient and post-acute care across the system)

  • Business planning projects (ambulatory surgery center, colorectal cancer screening, pain clinic, partial hospital program for complex pediatric illness, sleep lab services, women’s cancer center)
  • Service delivery process improvement (CT efficiency, ED waiting room experience, emergent management of AAA rupture, eye center OR efficiency, long-term follow-up care for pediatric bone marrow transplant patients, remote second opinion for cardiac care patients, vascular access services at Duke Regional Hospital)
  • Facility planning projects (bed capacity management, procedure room utilization, observational vs. clinical evaluation unit, service line allocation across facilities)

Delivery Support

  • Duke Life Flight projects (addressing operational, training and financial challenges) as well as a ground transport analysis project
  • Planning for the centralization of high-level disinfection processes
  • Supply chain projects (enhancing STAT room performance, addressing staffing model)


  • Addressing HR issues (provider and staff burnout/distress, provider compensation, staffing plans, nurse retention, and employee wellness)
  • Enhancing IT/reporting capabilities (eye center dashboard, CAREhub patient management, MRI performance indicator dashboard, pharmacy dashboard)
  • Improving cost and billing practices (developing orthopedic care bundles, radiology cost analysis, reducing chemotherapy denials, refining single-use supply charges)

Research & Development (capabilities include basic, applied and translational R&D)

  • Assessing new technologies & trends in radiation therapy
  • Developing a cellular therapy Center of Excellence
  • Improving the new technology review and approval process

In addition to completing their DUH projects, students are also required to spend at least 12 hours shadowing hospital executives and administration. Past shadowing experiences have included attending hospital meetings, rounds, or huddles, or 1:1 interactions with hospital administration, including the DUH President, COO, and other top executives. Shadowing opportunities may be related to a student’s DUHELP project, or based upon exploration of the student’s interests.

The DUHELP Course is open only to Daytime and Accelerated MBA students pursuing the HSM Certificate. There is limited capacity, and students must apply to enroll. Calls for Application will be sent to current HSM students in mid-Fall for Spring enrollment and in early Summer for Fall enrollment. The selection process is competitive due to Duke University Hospital’s limited bandwidth and the popularity of the course.

Daytime MBA students may apply for Spring of their First Year, Fall of their Second Year, or Spring of their Second Year. Accelerated MBA students may apply for Spring only.

Important points to consider:

  • DUH projects are generated by the DUH leadership team and presented to students by DUH Leadership. Students are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and the projects are not presented in detail until students have been accepted into the DUHELP course.
  • DUH projects span two terms (Fall 1&2 or Spring 1&2) and are for academic credit (6 credit hours); there is no compensation.
  • A DUH project meets the requirement for 1 HSM elective.
  • Projects are individual or small teams, based upon project needs.
  • Students may not enroll in the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum at the same time as DUHELP. Students should also consider carefully before enrolling in DUHELP concurrently with Mentored Study, Bass Connections, or any other experiential learning or project-based opportunity.
  • Space is very limited in this class; students who are not accepted may apply again for a future semester.

To learn more about past student experiences with the DUHELP course, please read the following HSM student blog posts:

DUH-ELP: an Invaluable, Hands-On Learning Experience
Impacting Today’s Health Care Challenges
A Strategic Recommendation for a Clinic Expansion
New Perspectives on Primary Care