From Chapel Hill to Tanzania - CHIP prepares students for careers - enhances degrees

March 20, 2013

By 2015, it is projected that there will be approximately 51,000 unfilled health information technology (health IT) jobs in need of qualified workers. To prepare students to enter this market, the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) is currently accepting applications for the Graduate Certificate in Clinical Information Science (CIS) program.

The CIS is a specialized educational track which prepares graduates for a variety of clinical informatician roles. Building on the existing strength of the health related curricular options at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science (SILS), this program offers focused training with an emphasis on clinical information systems analysis, data management and manipulation, as well as support of clinical decision-making.

Emily PfaffEmily Pfaff completed the program in 2011 and is now working as a research analyst at the North Carolina Transitional and Clinical Sciences Institute. She also serves as research manager on the Epic@UNC Core Team, which is responsible for implementing UNC’s newly purchased electronic medical record system. She feels the courses and training she received while participating in the CIS program helped her secure her current career positions.

“Heath care data is unlike any other data domain,” said Pfaff. “Gaining experience with health care data requires understanding financial data, clinical concepts, controlled vocabularies, coding systems and even text mining. The health care-specific classes taken as part of the CHIP certificate, as well as my practicum, allowed me to tell potential employers that I had experience with both database design and querying and concepts specific to health care data and electronic medical records.”

The CIS certificate program is available as either complementary to a graduate degree from a number of UNC programs or as a post-baccalaureate advanced specialization program for professionals in healthcare IT and other related fields of work.  The program consists of four courses and a practicum.

Abhinav KomandurAbhinav Komandur, who will finish his certificate by December of this year, is currently participating in his practicum in Tanzania. Throughout the course of the practicum, Komandur is working to create a financial system for online payments of various currencies, a cloud-based document storage and retrieval system, a Web-based information input system and an IT system that relies entirely upon open-source software. He too feels that his time in the CIS program has greatly prepared him for his future.

“The coursework I've taken so far helped greatly, but the emphasis on collaborative learning and group-based problem-solving I've experienced as a CHIP student was far more significant,” Komandur said. “CHIP's coursework helps you gain professional skills in a workplace-relevant fashion, which is immensely useful in information-related work settings.”

For SILS students working toward their MSIS degrees, two courses can count toward the degree and toward the certificate; in other words, MSIS students entering the health IT certificate program can reasonably expect to already be halfway done with the certificate course requirements.

After completing the CIS program, students will be highly trained to fulfill roles as a Clinician or Public Health Informatics Leader, Health Information Management and Exchange Specialist, Health Information Privacy and Security Specialist, Research and Development Informatics Scientist, Programmer and Software Engineer or Health IT Sub-specialist. Komandur, for one, strongly encourages students of all career paths to enroll in the program.

“I would tell students [considering the program] to pull the trigger, especially if their degree and future career prospects are seemingly unrelated to health informatics,” said Komandur. “Informatics in general rears its head everywhere; to at least be familiarized with the field's basic concepts is hugely important in most modern work environments.”