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A bridge to tomorrow

April 23, 2024

Story by Cheri Ghan

Teirra Andrisse stands in the lobby of Clark Hall
Taking a gap year after completing her Bachelor of Health Science helped Teirra Andrisse regroup and hit the ground running as she began her Master of Health Administration studies at the University of Missouri. Photo by Ryan Gauthier

Jumping straight into a career after completing her Bachelor of Health Science in Health Science was an “oddly unsettling” prospect for Teirra Andrisse.

While Andrisse didn’t begin college with the intention of taking a year away from her studies, she found herself uncertain about her plan to pursue a career in pharmacy or another clinical role. After completing an internship during her junior year in the corporate office of a senior living/skilled nursing facility, she discovered an exciting new path.

“I shifted gears to health care administration while continuing to focus on health professions emphasis coursework,” Andrisse said. The switch also led the 2022 College of Health Sciences graduate to take a bridge or gap year to regroup and reassess.

Despite any initial qualms, she learned that changing her mind and taking her time was OK.

And if you were to ask her today, she’d say that plan worked like a charm. She’s enjoying the first year of her Master of Health Administration studies at Mizzou, and this past fall she was the proud recipient of the Gerard Fischer Future of HMI Scholarship.

Strategizing for success

With the assistance of her CHS academic advisor Darcy Holtgrave, Andrisse created a four-year plan that would help her achieve her new goal of earning an MHA. Andrisse is interested in health care policy and women’s rights, so the pair shaped her coursework accordingly.

“This allowed me to customize my course selection, successfully fulfilling the pre-professional emphasis in Health Science I had already started while immersing myself in health administration classes,” Andrisse said.

Holtgrave has since moved on to direct the MedOpp Advising Office at Mizzou. Thanks to years of experience working with students who aspire to medical, dental and other highly competitive health professional programs, she was uniquely prepared to guide Andrisse through what can be a tricky time in the life of a student.

“The goal of a successful bridge year — or years — is to build on your mission, which is the why behind what you want to do,” Holtgrave said. “Ideally, your mission should inform your career, but it doesn’t define it. If you don’t know what your mission IS yet, then use the time to explore areas of interest. If you know your mission, do things to support it.”

Andrisse spent her bridge year building her skills by taking a patient service representative job with MU Health Care. She was able to observe best practices in health care, obtain patient-contact hours and witness various administrative careers coming together to improve the patient care experience in real time. Additionally, she grew personally.

“Alongside my desire for personal time, I saw this as an opportunity to save money, foster greater independence and fully commit to the idea of graduate school,” Andrisse says. “Obtaining an MHA at the University of Missouri will help my career as I expand my knowledge and look for professional growth possibilities. My passion for this field has motivated me to continue my education to become a hospital administrator and create my own health policies.”

All according to plan

Andrisse stuck to her plan and started in Mizzou’s MHA program this past fall. Reflecting on her experiences so far, she said time management became crucial and collaborating on research projects taught her effective teamwork.

“I focused on professional development through workshops,” Andrisse said. “Building a professional identity, both online and offline, and expanding my network became top priorities. This also shaped my academic journey and prepared me for post-graduation opportunities.”

In addition to her close working relationship with Holtgrave, Andrisse expanded her support network to include faculty members and alumni of the MHA program at Mizzou. Those connections have been beneficial.

“They’ve played a crucial role in guiding me to become a well-rounded professional, offering valuable insights and advice beyond the academic realm,” she said.

While some might assume a bridge year could cause a student to lose momentum, Holgrave said this is not usually the case. There are potential pitfalls, she noted, but that extra year’s worth of experience can also present fantastic opportunities.

“I encourage people to have more faith in their drive and retention,” Holtgrave said.

As she navigates the next chapter of her story, Andrisse couldn’t agree more.

“I highly recommend taking a bridge year,” she said. “It’s been a valuable and enriching pause before diving into the next phase of my academic and professional journey.”