Cedric Truss, DHA, MSHI is director of the health informatics program and clinical assistant professor of Georgia State University of Atlanta, GA.
Tell me about yourself and your program.
I’ve been at Georgia State since August 2017. We offer a bachelor’s of interdisciplinary studies and health informatics. With that program, we partner with the College of Business, so students take courses under the College of Business and within the College of Nursing and Health Professions.
A reader who ran across your students at HIMSS19 said they were engaged, asked great questions, and were enthusiastic. How would you describe their participation? What impressions were they left with?
I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from some of the students. For some, it was their first time going, Some went last year in Las Vegas. They enjoyed both of the conferences. They said that they were able to connect with some of the companies and to talk with them about some of the things they have been learning in the program.
For instance, we talk about all of the EHR companies throughout the program, so students talked with individuals from Cerner, Epic, Athenahealth, and Allscripts. They were able to get feedback from those who are actually doing the work and to see how it applies to their learning in the program.
How do you cover the theoretical parts of informatics while also exposing students to the real-world aspects that they saw at HIMSS19?
We have a curriculum that’s set around the different areas of what encompasses health informatics. Throughout those different courses, we talk about the theory of why things are the way they are and how to actually make them work in practice.
We have a local Georgia HIMSS chapter and individuals come in to the program and talk to students in the different courses. They explain how what they are learning is applied. This past year we started doing something new. We’re participating in the academic organization affiliate program that HIMSS offers, so we provided all the students with memberships this year. This was the first time that we’ve done this and it is a success, so we will continue doing it.
Were students surprised at the size of the conference and the level of activity around the industry?
Yes, they were, especially for those for whom it was their first time going. I’m glad that it was in Orlando, because it was much closer. They came back and said, OK, now I know what I want to do, or I can pinpoint it. Being able to see this, I can decide what I really want to do and what I want to go into long term.
Yours is a professional program, where students are required to complete pre-requisites and then apply. What kind of applicants do you typically get?
We mainly get students who know they want to do healthcare, but they don’t want to deal with patient care or have hands-on patient care. That’s the majority of the students that we get. We’ve had some that were in the nursing program, and after seeing what they would have to do, they decided, “I don’t want to do this.” They come check out health informatics and fall in love with it.
We’ve also had a couple of students come from the business school. After looking at some of the CIS majors that they offer, they decide this is a better fit for them and the type of career they’re looking to go into.
What careers do they want to pursue?
A lot of students mention project management and analytics, whether it’s data analytics or performance analytics.
Many informatics programs target people who have earned clinical degrees. How does the science aspect of informatics fit with the caregiver side?
You’re not providing direct patient care, but you are providing patient care. You’re making sure systems are working properly so the caregiver or provider can provide you care. If it’s a nurse or a physician at Clinic A but you’re going to Clinic B, that provider can go into the system to see what you have had done, be able to provide the care that you need, and not do something that’s unnecessary, like maybe give you another vaccination that you’ve already gotten or diagnose you with something that you’ve already been diagnosed with.
You’ve worked in different parts of the industry. Is the academic setting different?
[laughs] It is completely different working in academia versus working in the industry. I did enjoy the industry. I loved it. I don’t get to participate as much now in the industry, but I’ve been able to develop new partnerships with those who are in the industry so I can create the pipelines for students to talk with those individuals who are practicing, do internships at these organizations, and even gain employment at these organizations after graduation. It’s been a great fit for me here in academia.
Is there a recognition among your students that Atlanta is such a stronghold of health IT?
There is. We have a lot of health IT companies here in the state of Georgia. Actually, Georgia is considered the health IT capital. A lot of the students are aware of what’s here and the many different opportunities that they can have. We have a lot of health IT startups here as well. That makes the area stand out quite a bit. It gives students an opportunity to say, if I go through this program and I have this idea, I can have my own startup here as well.
How do your students view their future work life differently than the generations that preceded them?
A lot of them are wanting to do different things. Some of them would like to develop their own business. Some of them are interested in traveling and consulting.
I have a master’s in health informatics, so when I went into that program, my idea was that I wanted to be a CIO. But once I got towards the end of that program, I decided that’s not what I wanted to do any more. The opportunities I have had expanded my knowledge and my interest in different areas. The students see what I’ve done and talking with them gives them an outlook that they can do many different things, whether it’s to start their own company, work for other organizations, or travel and be consultants.
Your doctoral dissertation was on hospital ransomware attacks. What are your takeaways from that?
A lot of hospitals were not focusing on security when they were implementing the EHR. I think they figured that they were covered since they had software and a vendor that potentially had them protected from all of that. But I think they need to take steps and have their own policies and procedures in place to prevent that from happening.
How could someone get involved to help your program?
They can go to healthinformatics.gsu.edu. There’s a lot of information on there and it has some contact information as well. Or if they want to reach out to me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org or 404.413.1222. They’re welcome to call me directly and we can discuss options.