Where Do I Go From Here?

Last time, just before Thanksgiving, I wrote a post about my concerns with how to move forward in health informatics. Coincidentally, the class I was taking at the time BHIS 530 Topics in Health Informatics included a unit about this specific concern. So, I’ll cheat a bit today and post the response I wrote for that unit. It helped me to clarify where I’m trying to go in this field. I’ve modified it a bit for this format.

Based upon your experience and other information, what general strategies for HI career development would you advocate; what is your current strategy; why?   Explain and give examples.

I’m going to focus this response on my own career aspirations. As I’m sure is true of each person in this class, my career situation is specific to my time and place in the field of health informatics. I’ve been in the working world since 1985. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in liberal arts with some computer classes during a recession. My first career was in corporate accounting. I went for an MBA in 1994 and soon moved into information management consulting in 2000. I have a strong understanding of business and internal accounting. But I also have over a decade of experience implementing information analytics and business intelligence systems. Over six years of that work has focused on projects within health and life sciences. But I have little direct experience with clinical processes, people or systems beyond the data level.

So my career path from here out has certain limitations but some interesting opportunities. I’m at a good salary level, so I don’t want to start over in an entry level position. At present I’m a project/program manager working for clients in a consulting capacity to develop analytic systems. I’ve worked for health plans, hospital systems, prescription benefit management companies and pharmaceuticals. At some point I’d like to move out of consulting into an internal role with one organization, whether a healthcare system or a related company. At my age, I find it doubtful that I’ll be able to move into a clinical role or one requiring clinical experience since I’m not going to go back to school again to earn a medical degree. So the higher level jobs in healthcare organizations, like Director of Business Informatics may not be within reach since they require a medical or nursing degree (HIMSS, Job Descriptions, 2012). But per HIMSS Job Descriptions (2012), Director of Clinical Information Systems might be an achievable goal. Alternatively, I could stay in consulting and become a subject matter expert (SME) on analytic systems related to health informatics. There seems to be significant interest in SMEs by vendors of all stripes.

In order to move forward in my career in either path, I will need to firmly establish my credentials in health informatics. I’m doing that in two ways now: 1) I have several years of experience working with health data of various types, implementing systems and managing complex projects. 2) I’ll be finishing this Master’s program December of 2013. Next, I’ve found that certification can go a long way in opening doors to new job opportunities. When I was an accountant, I obtained certification as a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) and I currently hold a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. Even though the exams are tough and sometimes costly, I’ve found the titles help when dealing with human resource and recruiting gate keepers. So, I’m looking at the CPHIMS Certification from HIMSS. According to the exam content outline published online the exam covers much of the material we’ve studied during the HI Master’s program here at UIC. This includes material on the healthcare environment, technology environment, systems analysis, systems design, selection, implementation, support, maintenance, testing and evaluation, privacy and security, as well as administrative leadership and administrative management. I believe this would be a good fit for me between my education here at UIC, my experience in systems development and my experience in business.


HIMSS. (2012). CPHIMS Candidate Handbook and Application. Retrieved from: http://www.himss.org/content/files/CPHIMSCandidateHandbook.pdf.

HIMSS. (2012). Career Services Task Force of HIMSS. Job Descriptions. Retrieved from: http://www.himss.org/content/files/201204_JobDescriptionProject.pdf.

About the author


Yvette Desmarais

Yvette is a Masters student with University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Health Informatics Program. She works for Hewlett-Packard as a consulting project manager in their Information Management and Analytics group where she focuses on Health and Life Science analytics and data warehousing.