Interview with Jamie Parent, CIO, VP IT Operations, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

June 23, 2016

Jaime Parent, Associate CIO, VP IT Operations, Rush University Medical Center & Assistant Professor, Rush University Interviews with DCA

Why did you choose a career in Healthcare IT?

I get bored very easily and there is absolutely no boredom in Healthcare IT, nor Healthcare in general.  Often times, I do not own my own agenda and on any given day servers crash, phones go out, etc. But I’ve been around long enough now that very little surprises me.  Technology changes so fast and now academic medicine is arguably changing at the same rate and speed.   Healthcare IT is not for the faint of heart but these rollers coaster rides are a blast.

To what or whom do you attribute your success? Did you have a Mentor(s)?

My terrific wife Tracy has been my hero for many decades now.  Without her, I would simply be a misanthropic outcast.  Another source of success for me is having a son with autism (Bryan).  He is now 29 and works at the Rush University Warehouse; his/our continuing challenges are outweighed by the joy of his/our successes.  If a group of dads can have their softball team lose to state rivals, then take them to a restaurant mall on a Saturday night, well, you can manage a surfeit of personalities all throughout Healthcare.   God had some good reasons to put Bryan in our path.

As a CIO, is cybersecurity one of your largest concerns right now? What measures are you taking to deter cybercrime and data breaches?

Healthcare is wide-open for security breaches and is a reflection of the on-demand services that are demanded by clinicians, students, faculty and visitors.  While we have some excellent technologies to protect our environment, nothing is absolute.  Social engineering continues to be our biggest vulnerability which is why cybersecurity training for all personnel is your best defense weapon.  No technologies will work if Johnny or Mabel put their username and password on a sticky note on the front of their monitor; not even the best technology can plug that hole.

You combined your current experience as an IT executive with your past experience as an Air Force Colonel to create the EN-Abled Vet program.  How does your internship help veterans reintegrate into civilian life and IT careers?

We created a 13-week fast track on the job training internship that makes veterans competitive in the Healthcare and general Healthcare IT marketplace.   Fortune 500 vendors have stepped up to provide free on-line training, with special kudos to EPIC who offers free Epic certification opportunities for up to 5 vets per Epic customer, and 60 opportunities nationwide per year.   As confirmed by both CHIME and HIMSS, EN-Abled Vet is a unique approach to Healthcare IT career building.  For example, we will hire veteran’s spouses and other family members while a veteran is recovering from service-connected injuries.  SOMEONE has to put food on the table and a lot of well intending organizations overlook this. We pay a stipend of $12.50 per hour, 4 days a week for 13 weeks, which comes out to a total cost of $5,200 per veteran.  I would offer that cities, states and the feds pay more to veterans in benefits sitting at home watching TV, rather than being in a productive and successful internship.

You’ve had great success in bringing veterans into the HIT workforce. Has EN-Abled Vet inspired similar internships across the country?

Veterans possess a combination of skills that may be difficult to find in the today’s workforce.  Honesty, integrity, maturity, teamwork, stay until the job is done etc. are skills that anyone, anywhere would want to have as their employees.  Capitalizing on this, and after proving that this program works and is transportable, we have built a consortium of 7 health systems from Delaware to California who are in the early stages of developing their own programs. The program is pure and is essentially freeware.  Everything you need to start your own program can be found at http://en-abledvet.org.  Isn’t that something that hospitals should be doing already – giving back to the communities they serve?

What is your advice to up and coming Healthcare IT talent?

You have to be somewhat obsessed and possessed to do this stuff.   I’m hard pressed to find anyone in this field that hasn’t been yelled at at 4 AM by parents or spouses to get off that $#!# computer and come upstairs and go to bed.  Reminds me of the love of music.  If you put your mind to it, the more you will practice the better you will be.  In my case, my wife says I turned being a regular geek into a successful career geek and it’s hard to refute that.

What is your philosophy on how organizations can attract top Healthcare IT talent? 

Always keep in mind that as a not-for-profit, you will always be competing with the for-profit sector.  Most of my staff can easily find a job downtown that pays $20k+ more than their current position, so you have to be creative and engaged.  Such things as flex hours, PTO when needed, occasional parties, respect, work from home, etc. can all be effective recruiting and retaining tools.  You also have to tap into that altruistic gene.  As one developer told me, “I get a special feeling knowing the patient healthcare pages I build can help make patients get better and healthier quicker which is more inspiring than creating an insurance page or auto buying website.”  Organizations need to tap into this type of engagement for once your employee starts to return staffing firm cold calls, the slippery slope out the door begins.

Frank Myeroff Featured on HIStalk.com Regarding Why HIT Leaders Should Mentor

May 26, 2016

Why HIT Leaders Should Consider Mentoring

Featured on HIStalk.com

BLM648 FRANK MYEROFF_H 4x5The most successful leaders in healthcare IT tend to have something in common: they all have had a mentor or multiple mentors. A mentorship program can offer support towards an individual’s career as well as help to build knowledge among mentees which ultimately strengthens the organization.

Through four different types of mentorship programs, HIT leaders can use their experiences and knowledge to share with mentees, but also can benefit their own careers.

  • New hire mentorships. Mentors offer insight and guidance through new employees’ first couple of weeks of work. This helps mentees to become acclimated to the new work culture and environment while learning new things from an experienced HIT employee quicker.
  • Career mentoring. Mentors assist in the development of a mentee in the healthcare IT field. This could be formally organized through a mentorship program or informally take place in an organization where managers accept mentoring requests from employees. Professionals who are one or two positions above mentees can give valuable coaching and help to work through challenging work situations.
  • Networking mentoring. This allows individuals to share ideas and contacts throughout the marketplace. Networking mentoring is often informal and can take place at industry trade shows, healthcare IT conferences, or even social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Jeffrey Pelot, CIO at Denver Health, has used networking mentoring in his career. “I have sought out CIOs in various industries that have been willing to provide mentorship or act as sounding boards when I have been faced with difficult situations.”
  • Untapped potential mentoring. This type of mentoring is targeted towards an average or underperforming employee who has great potential, but has other components preventing them from reaching it. This can help an employee develop and discover how to excel in the field, and provide he or she with knowledge to succeed.

HIT leaders can participate in any of these mentorship programs to offer advice, share past experiences, and help up-and-coming leaders in the field. In fact, HIT leaders should view mentoring as an essential leadership skill. Mony Weschler, Chief Technology and Innovation Strategist at Montefiore Medical Center (NY) has had many great mentors who helped propel his career. Now he gives back, and according to Weschler, “What I really enjoy is mentoring others and infecting them with a passion for healthcare IT.”

There’s no doubt that mentoring others can be quite rewarding. By participating and becoming a mentor, you are likely to:

  • Obtain personal satisfaction from making a difference to the career development of another person.
  • Help in shaping future leaders and thereby impact the organization’s succession planning.
  • Increase your professional networks.
  • Enhance your people skills in areas such as leadership, interpersonal skills, and communication.
  • Learn more about areas in the organization where you may not be as knowledgeable.
  • Re-energize your career.

Overall, mentors can provide so much value for mentees and often mentorship programs are what shape future leaders of companies. When asked about mentors, Sue Schade, founding advisor at Next Wave Health Advisors and serving as Interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, summed it up nicely: “I’ve had mentors along the way, people I have either worked side by side with or as my boss. These have been some really solid people who have been able to give me good advice and who have been supportive and helped me stretch. Knowing how I have been supported in my career is why I have been so willing to do the same for others, to give back now that I have something to offer.”