HIIM Student Hopes to Break Down Barriers to Quality Health Care

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Tamika Douglas, a student in Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) at UTHSC, considers herself a community activist.

She is breaking down barriers as a volunteer for the Music City Riders United, a union group that advocates for bus riders, bus drivers, and mechanics in Nashville. She has spent more than 150 volunteer hours doing community service with the group at over 20 events and speaking engagements on pedestrian and commuter safety in the last two years.

Tamika Douglas, who maintains a 3.6 GPA while being a wife, mother to three daughters, and working full-time as a medical laboratory scientist at Vanderbilt, will graduate this May from the College of Health Professions. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

Through the group’s efforts on scorecards for various public transit areas throughout the city, Music City Riders United is getting the attention of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Metro Nashville Public Works, city council members and even the mayor. Douglas has also been featured on several news segments for her advocacy work, including at the recent Transit Equity Day in February.

“I am a community activist in Nashville because of the love that I have for people. I believe that it shouldn’t be life threatening to cross the street to catch the bus, ride a bike, and walk around in Nashville,” Douglas said. “As tax paying citizens, we have a right to walk around Nashville and have adequate lighted and raised crosswalks, sidewalks, and bus shelters. As a bus rider and bike rider, I have experienced firsthand waiting at bus stops without adequate shelter and riding in streets without bus lanes. It is hard work advocating for pedestrian safety and affordable housing, yet I’m motivated to continue because I know the power of people to change the course of history.”

A natural leader, Douglas was one of 25 students in the country selected as a student ambassador for the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) convention and exhibit held in Miami.

She was selected from more than 150 applicants to serve on a team of sponsored student ambassadors and volunteers, a first for the convention. The event brought together more than 4,000 health care professionals to learn about the latest issues affecting the industry and insights into strategies for advancing the profession.

“We were so excited to have Tamika selected as one of the student ambassadors for the AHIMA convention,” said Rebecca Reynolds, EdD, RHIA, FAHIMA, chair and professor in the Department of Health Informatics and Information Management. “Having her selected is a testament to her leadership abilities, as she is able to juggle responsibilities of a full-time job, school, and her family. She is typical of the students in our program, who have many responsibilities outside of the classroom, but who are able to make the commitment to the profession. Student involvement in the professional association is something we encourage all of our students to do, but it takes drive and ambition, like Tamika’s, to make it happen.”

Douglas maintains a 3.6 GPA while being a wife, mother to three daughters, and working full-time as a medical laboratory scientist at Vanderbilt, where she was introduced to the health informatics field. “I’ve never done anything like this in the sciences, clinical laboratory is my background, but with this pathway into a different field, I can see many opportunities,” she said.

While at the AHIMA convention, she had the opportunity to network with current HIIM professionals and future employers, as well as to meet with recent graduates from HIIM programs throughout the country. Douglas said attending the conference encouraged her that HIIM would be a very rewarding career path.

“As I was walking around meeting people at this convention, I realized that this was a career that I’m going to stay in,” she said. “I really felt good about my decision to pursue this career — from cyber security, privacy, compliance, information governance — there’s just so many different tracks. There are endless possibilities.”

Recently, Douglas was awarded one of seven mini-grants from the UTHSC Office of Equity and Diversity for a project that will leverage networks to bring awareness to the increasing rate of maternal death and infant mortality in the African-American community in the United States.

After working in the field of clinical laboratory sciences for 13 years, Douglas said she is eager to graduate. She hopes to use her new career in HIIM to promote better communication among information technologists, physicians, clinicians, and the health informatics field.

“I see myself as breaking down barriers and encouraging everyone to collaborate to use health technology better to promote health care,” Douglas said.

This story is from the most recent issue of Health Professions magazine.