Hodges University is fortunate to have many former students serving in faculty positions. Within each of its five schools, alumni can be found teaching on campus and online in a variety of subjects, which takes the meaning of a “personalized approach” to a whole new level. For a student, what better way to learn than from someone who has been in the same seat, and for a professor like Robert Chalmers, what better way to give back and grow as a professional than to teach the material that led him to where he is today.
“The instruction received at Hodges is different than many other schools. The professors know your name, as you may be in a class with only 15 other students,” Chalmers said.
As an adjunct faculty member in Hodges’ Associate in Science in healthcare office administration program, Chalmers is in his second semester teaching online courses such as Introduction to Healthcare Services, Human Resource Management and Financial Management of Healthcare.
The program is designed to prepare students interested in management positions within a health care office setting from physicians’ offices to public health agencies. As an associate degree program, many of the courses can be applied to the Bachelor of Science in health services administration, which is where Chalmers began his educational journey at Hodges.
As a former firefighter and paramedic, Chalmers earned his Associate in Science in emergency medical services from Pasco-Hernando State College, which afforded him the opportunity to work full time for a local fire department in Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately, the discovery of a heart condition at the age of 25 forced him to leave the job he truly loved and pursue other career interests.
“As I was trying to decide what the next move was in my life, I worked at two local emergency rooms as well as working for Busch Gardens and Adventure Island as a paramedic in their Health Services Center. All the while, I was looking for a way to return to the fire department, as that was my true passion,” he explained.
Looking at degree programs at various universities, he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in health sciences at Hodges with plans to attend Nova Southeastern University’s physician assistant program. Chalmers plans changed once he started working for Suncoast Perfusion Services in 2005, a peri-operative blood management company that provides stem cell therapy, autotransfusion and cardiac perfusion services, which resulted in him switching to the health services administration degree program.
“I felt as though I found my second calling at this point. I could learn new skills and work in the health care setting doing what I loved to do,” he said. “I decided to pursue my Bachelor of Science in health services administration to help me become a more effective and efficient leader and gain a better understanding of the health care field, as well as understanding ways to truly motivate my team and keep them engaged.”
While pursuing his degree, Chalmers advanced within his company, becoming chief operations officer in 2009. Admitting he did not need a master’s degree to maintain his position within the company, he enrolled in Hodges’ Master of Science in health services administration program in summer 2015 after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in winter 2015.
“I had such a positive experience with the university, as well as each of my professors, that I decided to take the next step of progression and work towards my master’s degree… I felt it was my duty to continue my education to grow personally and professionally while ensuring I was an effective leader to my colleagues,” he said.
Graduating with his master’s degree in fall 2016, Chalmers learned of an open position with Pasco County Fire Rescue. Leaving his executive-level position at Suncoast Perfusion Services, he continued as a consultant but accepted the program administrator position with Pasco County Fire Rescue in May 2017, saying, “A master’s degree was required for the position, and it appears this was a ‘sign’ for me to go back to the agency I desired to work for again in some capacity.”
Only two months later he accepted an additional position, only this time he would be teaching aspiring health care administrators–a group he could easily identify with.
Accepting the position of adjunct faculty member in Hodges’ School of Health Sciences, Chalmers admits he was “intrigued” by the opportunity to teach at Hodges, especially after witnessing the dedication and experiencing the mentorship of professors Dr. Susan Anderson, Dr. Phillip Schaengold, Professor Mary Jo MacLaughlin, Dr. Michael Cohen and Dr. William Griz.
Living four hours away from campus, Chalmers teaches all of his courses online. As a former online student, he understands the importance of collaboration as a way to “enhance the weekly objectives,” which is why he incorporates real-world scenarios to help his students make the connection between the material discussed and what can/does happen in the workplace.
Although he is unable to see his students in an on-campus setting, Chalmers is appreciative of the small class sizes that allow him to get to know his students.
“I also teach as an adjunct at another state college, and it is not unlikely to have 50-60 students in a classroom setting. I am not given the opportunity to get to know my students,” he said. “Hodges University offers small class sizes, maintains faculty who truly care about a student’s success and fosters a positive learning environment.”