As an international student at Macalester College in the early 1990s, I was lucky enough to secure a post at the computer lab help desk. This choice gave me skills that were relatively rare at the time and set me on a career trajectory that has run along information technologies and informatics ever since.
After college, I worked as an IT consultant and project manager at IBM, and helped establish new overseas markets. As an IBMer, I led the technical implementation of the first accredited, fully online graduate distance education program in Turkey. In the process, I witnessed the tremendous potential of information technologies to positively impact quality of life.
My career took a turn toward academia when I took on course development operations for University of Minnesota’s online education program. I stayed with the University for the next decade and served its Academic Health Center in various roles, all the while completing my doctorate.
The early 2000s brought major changes in the training of health care professionals. The National Academy of Medicine reports “To Err is Human” and “Crossing the Quality Chasm” brought attention to the silent epidemic of medical errors. Not long after, interprofessional team work within health professions became the Holy Grail. I was fortunate to be in Minnesota at a time when the earliest efforts at bringing together students from separate disciplines were implemented. Now as the associate dean for interprofessional education (IPE) at James Madison University, I am part of a national cadre who continue to advocate for educating our health professions student about and with each other.
As educators, we have always had a gut feeling that informatics is to play a major role in improving health care quality and access for patients and populations, and that our students need to be savvy consumers of informatics. Integrating informatics into health professions education (and practice!) is the next grand challenge of our generation.
Because of this, the existence of groups such as the Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) Committee at HIMSS is all the more important. We are a group of educators and practitioners who share the goal of increasing informatics literacy and leadership in health professions, and we are on a mission to eliminate barriers to achieving this end-goal. We work to create educational modules. We facilitate knowledge exchanges and collaboration across disciplines and across continents.
Working with my colleagues on the TIGER Committee gives me confidence that, just as teamwork, collaboration, and interprofessional education have become unquestioned aspects of preparation for a career in health care, so, too, will informatics. With the right kind of political will and boots-on-the-ground advocacy, it may even happen within the span of our careers.
About the Author
Özlem H. Ersin, PhD, MBA, MEd, MBS is Associate Dean, Interprofessional Education, James Madison University and Member of the 2016 – 2017 TIGER Committee