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.