Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (MScBMI) student Matthew Howard was awarded with the 2019–20 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMMS) scholarship by the Greater Illinois Chapter. The scholarship is given to qualified students in accredited programs focusing on healthcare, including health information technology, to provide financial assistance and recognition for their studies in the field.
While he readily acknowledges his gratitude for the scholarship, Matthew admits that the most exciting outcome of receiving this award is the increased access he will have to HIMSS, a nonprofit at the forefront of transforming healthcare through the latest developments in technology.
“Networking with other clinical informaticists and technology workers in healthcare, while learning about hospitals using the latest technologies and incorporating them into their workflows, will be incredibly valuable. I’ll have an important new perspective on how we’re doing things at the UChicago Medical Center.”
For Matthew, these insights will also set the stage for the next steps he hopes to take in his career.
After completing his nursing degree in 2007, Matthew began his career in healthcare as a registered nurse at the Cleveland Clinic followed by the UChicago Medical Center. He knew he was on the right career path, but was looking for something more after working as an account specialist in patient care and clinical informatics at a health technology company.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” he says. “I loved being able to use the knowledge I’d acquired in my previous position to inform the decisions I was making. I immediately knew that an advanced degree in biomedical informatics would be right for me, and it didn’t take long for me to decide on the University of Chicago program.”
“I loved being able to use the knowledge I’d acquired in my previous position to inform the decisions I was making. I immediately knew that an advanced degree in biomedical informatics would be right for me, and it didn’t take long for me to decide on the University of Chicago program.”
Having been out of school for over a decade, Matthew entered the biomedical informatics program cautiously—not wanting to find himself overwhelmed while trying to rekindle long-dormant skill sets. He was relieved to discover that they all came back.
“The paper writing, the studying, the participation in class, it all came back,” he says. “The program is exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s given me the exact skills and in-depth overview of healthcare today that will allow me to take the steps I want in my career. What’s more, I never thought in a million years I’d take a computer programming class.”
The knowledge and tools he learned while taking the core classes paved the way for him to become an informatics specialist at UChicago Medicine, a position that allows him to educate staff on the electronic health record system and other important integrative technologies.
“My heart is really in the educational side of clinical informatics work,” Matthew says. “And because MScBMI classes focus on the technology, my classes complement my work in a wonderful way. After all, part of my job is getting buy-in on new technologies. So the better I understand how these devices work and fit into different workflows, the better I’m able to convince doctors and nurses about the importance of using them.”
“My heart is really in the educational side of clinical informatics work, and because MScBMI classes focus on the technology, my classes complement my work in a wonderful way.
Looking back at his experience working as a registered nurse, Matthew understands that patient care is the primary concern of healthcare workers. Although they rarely have the time to learn a tool beyond the basic steps needed to log necessary information, there are often additional capabilities within a program that will save them much needed time.
“That’s why I’ve learned how important it is for me to sit down with the engineer or technologist who’s developed the device and have them explain it as fully as possible,” Matthew says. “What does that number mean? Where does it come from? Why is it considered ‘too high’ when it reaches this point? The tool is only as good as the staff’s ability to use it, and it’s my job to make them as familiar and comfortable as possible with the technology. In the end, it all leads to better patient care.”
It is also why the added engagement Matthew will have with HIMSS after winning the 2019–20 scholarship will prove pivotal in achieving his career goals after he graduates from the biomedical informatics program this summer.
“I love what I’m doing now, and I want to continue to grow in the field,” he says. “I want to learn more about the world of healthcare technology and how other people are addressing the same challenges I face regularly. Ultimately, my goal is to begin working with clinical informatics teams in a leadership or managerial role. Thanks to the biomedical informatics program at UChicago and the HIMSS scholarship, I’m well on my way to achieving that goal.”