Featured Faculty Profile
Program Chair and Professor, HIT - DeVry University Houston
Teaching Field: Health Information Technology (HIT)
"There are lots of jobs in the HIT field. Not to mention director of medical records departments and supervisory positions, there are positions in coding and quality education, transcription, billing coordination, and others."
Where I come from
My first career was working in the medical records departments of hospitals, in home health agencies, and a long-term care facility in Chicago. The field has changed enormously in my lifetime. I graduated in 1983 with a BS in what used to be called medical records administration when records were paper-based. We're getting away from that now, with computerized record-keeping. The field is now referred to as health information management.
I earned my master's in information technology in 2005, which qualified me to teach. I thought I might go into sales or work for a health facility, but when I posted my resume on Monster, to my surprise, DeVry University Houston gave me a call. They said my qualifications were perfect for what they needed, which was a person to start their health information technology (HIT) program and manage it through the accreditation process, which was completed in July 2007. So that's how I began my second career, and I love it.
The turning point
In 1998, I joined the staff of a start-up 244-bed nursing home and developed the medical records department. The facility was operating at full capacity within three months of opening. They promised me that they were going to invest in electronic record-keeping, but seven years later they still had not done so. That's when I decided to get my master's; I wanted to work with modern systems. Now the home is a client for my consulting business. They have still not upgraded.
At DeVry University Houston, I created the shells for the HIT courses, established relationships with the industry, found and established relationships with hospitals who sponsor our practicum projects, found and mentored five adjunct professors, established the local chapter of AHIMA and TXHIMA health professional organizations, organized and managed the advising board, program review and accreditation visit.
Establishing the program was a lot of work, and I'm really proud of it. Our first four students graduated this year. I was honored to receive the Ron Taylor and Pride awards from DeVry University for what I did, but the real satisfaction comes from improving people's lives.
There are lots of jobs in the HIT field. Not to mention director of medical records departments and supervisory positions, there are positions in coding and quality education, transcription, billing coordination, and others. There's also a big range of employers - nursing homes, hospitals and home health, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, even law. Check it out on http://www.ahima.org/careers .
My best mentor is Dr. Barbara Odom-Wesley, past president, American Health Information Management Association, and the DeVry University Irving campus program chair. She taught me the ropes at DeVry University and she is always available to help me. She's encouraging, always positive. Right now she's encouraging me to go ahead and get my Ph.D.
Improving with age
The majority of my students are not right out of high school, and the few that are have more difficulty staying focused. The ones in their 30s and 40s are really self-motivated and focused and those are my best students. They know what they want, they know what they have to do, and they're always on top of it. Class sizes average 10-12 students.
Practice makes confidence
All our HIT students complete a practicum, which is basically an 80-hour internship in a hospital. At the end, they prepare a portfolio and PowerPoint presentation. They give that presentation to the president and deans of the school, the practicum site director and me, and any other students who want to come. That prepares them to do presentations on their job. They're nervous going into it, and I assure them they only have to speak for ten minutes. Most end up speaking 20-25 minutes and are surprised to find how much they have to say.
My classes are all four hours in length; we meet once a week on Saturday. I can't lecture for four hours, and probably nobody would learn much if I did. My personal style as a teacher is informal but I work from a prepared agenda. I'll do an opening presentation; we discuss it, and then do some activities. For example, in one of my classes, Medical Terminology, we use flashcards in a game setting to try and make it fun. In addition, the classes all have an online component; students contribute to a discussion on a question I post.
I spend a lot of time and effort outside of class assisting students individually and running the HIT club. I have students volunteer to work at the Texas Health Information Management Association convention every year, so they get exposure to professionals in the field and have a sense of service to the community. The club sells candy and water to raise funds to cover their lodging and transportation costs. Attending the convention cues them into things about professional behavior that they couldn't get any other way.
DeVry University does not take the summer off, although you could. You have to be motivated to keep up with the pace but the reward is that you complete your bachelor's degree in three years rather than four, or an associate's degree in a year and a half instead of two. If you can't attend on campus in a particular semester, you can take a class online so that you stay on track. This has enabled DeVry University students to pass the RHIT exam, which credentials them, on an accelerated schedule.
DeVry University professors are not required to spend time on research, as they are at a traditional university. DeVry University requires instructors to have at least 10 years' experience in the field. So we have more hands-on knowledge, we're not fresh out of school and teaching out of textbooks, as many of my teachers were.