Published on February 5, 2020 by Sarah Waller  
Claire Dufresne at Graduation

When Claire Dufresne began her first semester of clinicals in nursing school, she knew something wasn’t quite right. “I realized that while healthcare intrigued me, I wasn’t passionate about the hands-on work,” she said.

In talking to an advisor at Samford’s Career Development Center, it was recommended that—with an interest in healthcare and business—she should learn more about the School of Public Health’s healthcare administration major. After spending an evening reading more about it, she decided to change her major the very next day.

“I discovered the best thing about healthcare administration—a career that allows you to be on the business side of helping people,” she said.

Dufresne graduated with her degree in December 2019, and today, she works at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, a relatively small company in Lexington, Massachusetts with three programs in clinical trials and more than 12 programs in early stage development.

“As a program coordinator, I help make sure that our programs are running on time. I facilitate meetings, create and manage timelines for our products, and have some involvement with partnerships with other companies,” she said. “Dicerna creates drugs to treat diseases involving the liver. I work with a couple programs, but the main one is a drug designed to treat the chronic hepatitis B virus.”

While working in the pharmaceutical sector is a “whole different beast” than Dufresne’s previous experience, she says Samford prepared her by helping build interpersonal skills and “teaching me how healthcare interacts with the world as a whole,” she said.

As a healthcare administration student, Dufresne had the opportunity to complete two internships. She interned with the quality management department at Grandview Medical Center under its Chief Quality Officer. “At Grandview, I saw so many things I would not see anywhere else. I went to court with the ethics committee. I was able to experience the NICU, which has always been a passion of mine, and I learned about regulatory laws and how they differ from state-to-state,” she said.

And then, in comparison, Dufresne interned at Urology Centers of Alabama with the director of human resources. “At UCA, I saw the private practice side of things, which are vastly different than a big hospital,” she said.

The skills she developed during this real-world experience, combined with the knowledge she gained in the classroom, made a meaningful impact in preparing Dufresne for the work she does today. But Dufresne is quick to say it was the relationships she built at Samford that made the strongest impact. “From Mrs. Latta, the advisor at the CDC who listened to me and helped me find the right career path, to every single professor in the School of Public Health—they truly defined my Samford experience,” she said.

“I started as a nursing major because I wanted to help people; only after starting healthcare administration did I realize how many different ways there are to help. Through this major, I am able to help people in a way that meets my strengths,” she said.