Alumni Profile: Andrew Tran University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Andrew Tran (MS '17)


Data Courier Administrator and Epic Security Analyst at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio

SHRS Program Attended:

Health Information Systems

Q: Why did you choose Health Information Systems?

Andrew: I knew that I wanted to be in health care but I fell out of love with being a clinician. In my undergrad, I did an internship in Kansas and I lived with a cardiothoracic surgeon and got to see what was done in both a hospital setting and an outpatient setting. I discovered that I didn’t want to be a clinician!

I wandered for a year or so. I worked in IT at Ohio State. During that time, I realized my natural affinity with technology could serve me well in a career. Understanding and working with technology has always come easy to me but it took a small role for me to realize that if I could just leverage my ability with my passion for health care that I was at the beginning of a career. Because of that I wanted to blend technology and health care together, and found Health Information Management (HIM) does this.

Q: Where are you now? How has your career path changed in the past few years?

Andrew: I am now working at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio where I function as a data courier administrator and Epic security analyst. I enjoy a dual role that still sees opportunity to perform builds in the Epic Environment but I also have administrative responsibilities to oversee, validate and ultimately move build migrations for the entire IS Epic Department across all of our different Epic Environments.

After working at OhioHealth for three years I sought to be more closely aligned with the Epic Application itself rather than the 3rd party applications that integrate into Epic. My new role offered me the opportunity to do this and to operate in an admin function as well. I do enjoy this more than my previous work since I now get the opportunity to build directly in the Epic Sandbox and I’ve also migrated the last couple release upgrades which are massive builds that spanned several months. When the whole department was finished, I served as the final gatekeeper to validate and approve it to migrate. It was a great learning experience that incurred a lot of growth!

Q: As a mid-career professional who continues to grow in the HIM field, is there anything that you draw upon from your time at Pitt?

Andrew: I still perform some end-user support every now and then and since I am still functioning as a builder, I get to draw on my time at Pitt often. The HIM program at Pitt did a great job of giving context to why certain things within a hospital's operation are structured the way that they are. The program gives you a firm base of knowledge that I can attribute to Assistant Professor Patti Firouzan. I continue to call on that base when I’ve been tasked with a build request; I understand their needs, where we're going with it, and I understand the direction that my project managers and my senior directors are taking.

I’ve coordinated build requests for additional system security for our PCA’s and unit coordinators. With my background, I knew to coordinate requests between our director of Nursing Informatics and clinical builders as well so that no one was left out of the loop. I’ve also worked directly with our own HIM director of Release of Information to build, configure and grant access to some Patient FYI Flags in our System to support our Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).

My prior experience within Pitt’s HIM program has helped define operational scope of staff such that when something begins to drift outside that scope, I know who to contact and involve to bring everyone full circle. I have had the privilege of working directly with some of our Physician Clinical Informaticists (PCI) which includes our chief medical information officer and I feel as if my education allows me to understand on an elevated level where the PCI’s clinical knowledge and experience blends itself with their IS knowledge of the Epic EHR System and its capabilities and limitations.

I also have to echo my earlier testimony on the influence of Professor Sue Paone’s instruction as well–I fondly remember her half serious, half joking advice to “Take your IT staff out to lunch or dinner”! It’s so true! Simply having a mutually beneficial relationship with your IT staff is enough for you to learn and grow your own experience and ability. You never stop learning in your career and you’ll learn so much from your cohorts just by having a relationship with them. I think program applicants tend to center too much on the “Information Management/Science” part of HIM and think it’s pretty daunting when in reality you don’t necessarily need a background in IT to excel in the vast myriad of career opportunities that HIM can provide you.

Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?

Andrew: I am an assistant coach for water polo at my old high school. I specialize in coaching goaltenders and some of the newer players and refining some of the playing styles of more veteran players. I've actually integrated some of the things I learned from SHRS into my coaching. I had a database teacher who taught us Structured Query Language (SQL) at SHRS. I'm calling upon that knowledge to develop a database system here for my water polo players, so we can better track their stats and have a data-driven analysis of their play so that we can perform better at the end of the year.

HIM is all about collecting data and using a data-driven approach. You can apply those same concepts to anything in life, really. Between our statistics class and the database classes that we were given in the HIM program, that's all been helpful for me in establishing that.

Q: Any words of wisdom or advice for recent graduates?

Andrew: I would say three things:

1. Work hard but learn to work smart. Yes, sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves to get something done, but often times it’s not the workload that gets you, it’s the way you carry it.

2. Stay humble and be open to new opportunities and ideas–humility is a valuable resource in the work place; it not only creates a healthier working relationship among peers but it grows the best teams which in turn grow the best ideas and the healthiest working environments.

3. Learn how to advocate for yourself. Whether you’re in school and trying to improve your life or if you’re working and you're trying to improve your career and hopefully your life outside of work as well, be your own best advocate. Learning to fight for yourself can be difficult but the reward it brings is immeasurable.

Q: HIM is not as well known as other health care professions. What do you want people to know about HIM?

Andrew: I know that when people think of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, everybody immediately starts thinking of occupational therapy, physical therapy–the direct care provider roles. I realized that even in the world of HIM, what I have done is very atypical; it's very non-traditional. Most folks from the HIM program will tell you that they tend to go into a vendor role. It's very rare that somebody goes through that training then goes into the IT section of that world. So, I'm on the opposite end of the operational spectrum. The role that I fulfill is to basically be the gears and the grease that make everything turn for the operational folks.

A lot of people think HIM is incredibly technical, it's very IT driven. But I would counter that by saying that you do not have to be a technical person to be in HIM. Health care has never been more accessible to a wider audience than before because of HIM and because of things that we have done. I would strongly encourage people to look at it– consider the full aspect of it. I think that the experiences I've gained from SHRS and from HIM have given me such a broad base that I could really do anything and make something of it.

It was a very nice contrast from my undergrad degree in biology. After undergrad, I felt like I didn't really have a whole lot of avenues, I didn't know what to do. When I left SHRS I found so many avenues, I couldn't decide which one to pick! Because there were so many different things that I could have done and so many different sectors that I could have entered, it was hard to choose. That’s a nice problem to have.

"HIM is a wonderful field. It is extremely flexible. And I'll leave you with this: when I was being recruited, when I first learned about the program through Ohio State’s undergraduate program director, I was told, “the sky's the limit in HIM.” And it's true. It's absolutely true. The sky is absolutely the limit here, and I think that a master's degree, or even a bachelor's degree in HIM sets you on a path where moving upward has tons of potential and opportunities."

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Photos provided by Andrew Tran