“People are the most important; the systems are secondary.” Joe Gibson, Director of Epidemiology at the Marion County Public Health Department in Indiana, understands the importance of having capable people for public health and informatics capacity. He views epidemiology as decision support: getting the right information to the right people at the right time, to improve decisions affecting the health of the community. The belief in this process is underscored by Joe’s support of public health informatics training. Joe is a mentor in the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship program, which provides on-the-job training to recent graduates in order to increase public health informatics capacity.
The Fellow working in Marion County under Joe’s mentorship is Crystal Clay, a graduate student in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis. Crystal has enjoyed her time as an APHIF Fellow, because she’s received more experience with informatics and has been able to learn about public health informaticians and public health practitioners. “I’ve learned a lot about the value of effective communication, a vital skill for public health informaticians,” Crystal adds. “Effectively engaging stakeholders is especially important in informatics, which involves interacting with a diverse workforce.” She says the mentorship model of the fellowship was extremely helpful in understanding the health department culture, the agency’s structure and dynamics, and completing projects.
Crystal has worked on several projects as a Fellow. One has dealt with Meaningful Use compliance, working with health department providers to teach them how to use the electronic prescribing system, and to adapt the system to the provider’s needs. “I created a training document and facilitated several training sessions to help providers improve care and ensure compliance,” she says.. “Marion County will continue to benefit from the progress Crystal has made,” Joe says. “She has made considerable progress on important informatics projects for our health department.”
Joe and Crystal both emphasize the role of informatics in public health and the role that business process analysis plays. Business process analysis helps get public health program staff to understand data and information as well as the technical side. Clearer business processes can streamline how public health works, making it more effective. Joe says that “public health increasingly needs rapid access to information. Both developing good information systems and
paying attention to processes are important parts of achieving that.”
Perhaps the biggest indicator of the program’s success is the future. Joe says “I’d definitely continue a relationship with APHIF. The fellowship helps us train informaticians with great technical and public health skills.” Crystal, too, is looking towards the future and is interested in staying in public health. She also would like to serve as a mentor one day. “Mentors have played a monumental role in my success. It’s my desire to contribute to the development of other aspiring public health informaticians.”Crystal ClayFor more information about the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship and other training programs offered by CSTE, including how to apply to be a mentor or a fellow, please visit www.aphif.org.