FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Sam M. Walton College of Business, in partnership with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, announced the creation of the Robert L. Shoptaw Master of Healthcare Business Analytics Program on September 27 at the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield Northwest Arkansas Corporate Center in Springdale.

“The funding of this graduate program by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is a game changer for our students and for the healthcare industry,” said Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College. “This degree will help professionals in the business and healthcare industries transform massive amounts of data into smart, analytical decisions. Ultimately, this is a win for both patients and medical professionals.”

Kate Mamiseishvili, interim dean of the College of Education and Health Professions, added, “We’re excited to collaborate with the Walton College to offer this new master’s degree. It is a unique program that leverages the expertise of faculty from both colleges. It brings together business analytics and knowledge of healthcare to prepare professionals with big data skills to improve healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.”

Shoptaw, who served as Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s chief executive officer from 1994 until his retirement in 2008 was on hand for the unveiling of the new program.

“Arkansas Blue Cross is pleased to honor the leadership and legacy of Bob Shoptaw by supporting Walton College in the establishment of the Master of Healthcare Business Analytics Program,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “There is a growing need for highly skilled healthcare data analysts who can turn information into insights that allow providers, payors and researchers to develop initiatives that improve patient outcomes, enhance care management and promote a whole person approach to care that addresses a patient’s physical health, behavioral health and social needs all together. Bob Shoptaw has been a visionary in our industry when it comes to recognizing the critical role data and analytics can play in improving the overall healthcare system and providing people affordable coverage and quality care.”

Shoptaw joined Arkansas Blue Cross as a hospital and professional relations representative in 1970 and rose through the ranks to become the president and chief executive officer in 1994. He served in that capacity until he retired in 2008 and also served as chairman of the Arkansas Blue Cross board from 2009 – 2016. He now serves as a member of the board for the not-for-profit, mutual insurance company.

Throughout his career, Shoptaw invested his time and talent with numerous community and civic organizations including those in the academic and medical fields. On the academic front, he served on the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board and the Arkansas Executive Forum at Walton College and on boards at Philander Smith College and Arkansas Tech School of Business.

He also served on healthcare-related boards affiliated with the Arthritis Foundation, National Institute for Health Care Management, Arkansas Centers for Health Improvement, Governor’s Rural Health Advisory Council, Mercy Health Plans and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The Robert L. Shoptaw Master of Healthcare Business Analytics Program is anticipated to launch in the fall of 2023.