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Sarah Smith – Making a Difference Behind the Scenes

August 5, 2020

Sarah Smith is not new to the world of health informatics. In fact, she has been actively working with health data for the last four years. After earning a BS in Health Information Management, she began a fulfilling career in health care IT. Smith, like many of her colleagues, is a woman behind the curtain.

Her work in the IT department of a major health insurance provider has allowed her to effectively use the degree she earned. Health data management plays a large role in the world of health care today — a role that is continuing to grow. Not wanting to be left behind, Smith decided to advance her career by returning to school for her MS in Health Informatics (MSHI).

Pitt Was the Right Fit

The University of Pittsburgh was a no-brainer for Smith. Having already earned her undergraduate degree there in 2016, returning to further her education at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) seemed only natural. “Once you become part of the Pitt family, you are always a part of the Pitt family,” Smith says.

It was more than her familiarity with the institution, though; Pitt provided everything she desired in a graduate program. Smith, who was already working full-time when she decided to return to school, knew she needed a program willing to work with her. This was especially important considering work hours weren’t her only concern. Prior to the pandemic, she traveled often for her job leaving her with a sometimes unpredictable schedule.

Smith needed the flexibility Pitt provides. “This program is manageable to complete alongside work, but it takes a lot of discipline, structure and motivation to do so,” She says. It may not be easy, but it is most certainly worth it. She continues “I’m confident that this program gives me the tools I need for the future.”

Pitt’s MSHI program stood out to her above all of the other online options. It provided her with an abundance of flexibility and allowed her to focus on IT and data analytics from the health care perspective — something she was already familiar with but wanted to pursue further. Smith began the newest leg of her journey in health informatics with the spring 2020 cohort and is hoping to complete the program in December 2021.

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A Promising Career

Smith is already working in health care, doing her best to make a difference. Health informatics can simplify the processes and make life easier for both patient and provider. She says that “by leveraging data analytics, we can do several things to improve outcomes, like predicting patterns and identifying chronic issues. This can reduce the amount of emergency situations and high costs accrued.”

Her work as an IT project manager with Aetna has shown Smith that “big data is the future, and with it we have the ability to provide health care to people on a more localized, personal level.” Her work in health informatics may keep her behind the scenes, but it doesn’t prevent her from making a big impact. The use of big data in health care doesn’t just lower costs, it leads to better patient care and better patient outcomes.

Pitt’s MSHI program allows for a concentration in Data Science, one Smith chose to follow. Paired with her previous degree in Health Information Management and her current work with a health insurance company, the master’s degree she is working towards can only expand her career options.

She credits Pitt’s program with her potential for success. “Wherever my career takes me in the future, I believe that this program, with the data science concentration, will help me elevate my technical knowledge and skills,” she says. “This program will also give me the ability to more proactively identify creative quality improvement opportunities and learn how to leverage a variety of data analytics tools.”

Making a difference matters to Smith and she believes that Pitt’s MSHI will only help her to continue her work and further her reach. She is excited for the opportunities it will open up for her.

Flexibility from a World-Class Faculty

The program’s curriculum wasn’t the only draw for Smith. The faculty made available to MSHI students can’t be beat. Pitt draws in faculty members that are renowned, both nationally and globally, in health informatics. Smith says Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences “has an incredible reputation of partnering with many industry leaders and it prioritizes teaching students about current trends and the latest research.”

Despite their reputation in the health informatics community, Smith doesn’t think her instructors focus any less attention on their students. In fact, she believes they make themselves readily available and work hard to ensure student success. “The professors take the time to get to know you personally,” Smith notes. She attributes this personal touch to the small class sizes Pitt provides.

That personal interaction only serves to better a student’s experience, especially a student like her. Balancing work and school is no simple feat and it will sometimes take cooperation from faculty to make it possible. The instructors’ personal knowledge of Smith and her abilities has made them more than accommodating. This has allowed her to find success in the program despite working while continuing her education.

A Diverse Environment Built for Networking

Many programs appeal to a certain type of person or a certain career path. Pitt’s MSHI program is not one of them. They serve a wide variety of health care hopefuls from all across the country in many different fields. Smith says her classes are filled with doctors, nurses, pathologists, engineers, care managers and IT professionals, like herself, among others. The diversity of her classes is one of her favorite parts of the program.

Pitt’s MSHI program may be online, but that doesn’t stop students from interacting and building lasting relationships. There is effort both inside and outside the classroom to ensure that students are cooperating and getting to know each other — including virtual events. “Some of the connections and friendships that I have made with the professors and other students will carry me through the rest of my MSHI experience and throughout my career.”

Smith appreciates that they put a “big emphasis on group work because many of the jobs in this field are very collaborative.” It is that focus on real world connections and experiences, something Pitt’s MSHI instructors are known for, that let’s Smith know she made the right decision.

Advance Your Career in Health Informatics

Health informatics is a growing field appealing to many different areas of the health care industry. The University of Pittsburgh’s Masters of Science in Health Informatics program allows for a concentration in Data Science, General Health Informatics, Health Care Supervision and Management, and Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA). Its online delivery allows all qualified students to attend the program that best suits them as opposed to the program nearest them.

You can learn from the best no matter where you are. Learn more about Pitt’s Online MSHI program and learn the skills necessary to advance your career in health informatics.

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