April Insco, PhD, RHIA, CHDA, CPHI, CCS, has the distinction of being the first student to graduate from the UTHSC Institute for Health Outcomes and Policy (IHOP) program with a concentration in health informatics.
“Completing a doctoral degree is a major accomplishment in itself, but to be the first one in this concentration makes me even more proud to have completed it,” she said.
The IHOP program is a collaboration between the College of Graduate Health Sciences and the College of Health Professions Department of Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM). The interdisciplinary degree focuses on developing highly skilled professionals focused on improving the efficiency, quality, and security of today’s health care systems through data management. Graduates of the program are prepared to become researchers, scholars, teachers, thinkers, and planners in the demanding and changing field of health informatics and information management.
Dr. Insco obtained her bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees from the College of Health Professions HIIM program in 2011 and 2015. “In 2017, when UTHSC added a Health Informatics track to the IHOP program, it seemed like the perfect way to complete my educational pathway,” she said.
Though Dr. Insco is proud of her accomplishments, achieving them was not easy. “Honestly, there were many times throughout the program that I wasn’t convinced I would be able to finish,” she said.
Balancing a full-time career, professional association duties, a family, and schoolwork, left her feeling “very overwhelmed” at times, she said. Determination and friends and family helped her succeed.
“Having a good friend in the program with you, a good adviser, and a supportive family helped me overcome that challenge,” she said. “Continued words of encouragement and support during the last five years gave me what I needed to move forward and complete the program and my dissertation.”
The IHOP Health Informatics concentration is an online program. Additionally, the pandemic canceled events that would have happened in person, such as graduate research seminars, which meant fewer opportunities to connect with colleagues face to face.
However, even those challenges did not stop Dr. Insco from cultivating strong relationships in the program with fellow students and faculty. “Before the pandemic, I was able to attend graduate research day and was able to meet another student in the program and see how students further along in their programs presented their work.” Dr. Insco also participated in online seminar courses. “I enjoyed the seminar course, as it provided me with the ability to present to the class each week, which I think was very helpful in preparing me to present for my oral defense,” she said.
During her time in the IHOP program, Dr. Insco became president-elect of the Tennessee Health Information Management Association (THIMA) and served as president of the state health information management association. “I am especially proud of that achievement,” she said.
Dr. Insco is an associate professor in the associate-level HIM program at Roane State Community College. Since receiving her doctorate, Dr. Insco now has a goal of being promoted to a full professor. She is also collaborating with her academic adviser, Rebecca Reynolds, EdD, RHIA, FAHIMA, to have her research articles published.