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Healthcare information technology: New STEM track at John Carroll University

John Carroll University
John Carroll University
Sandy Clingman

Students win when universities create new experiential learning opportunities for them and widen their employment prospects.

New this fall of 2014 at John Carroll University (JCU,) located in Cleveland suburb University Heights, is the "Health Information Technology (HIT) Track" for STEM majors in computer science (CS) and computer information technology (CIT.)

"We are the only school in the country to offer this program," says Dan Palmer, Ph.D., the JCU mathematics and computer science professor who helped initiate the HIT track.

Although the track becomes official just this year, HIT courses have been offered at JCU for several years now. Dr. Palmer developed the curriculum gradually in collaboration with JCU alumna Roseann Spitznagel, manager of software development and RIS systems, imaging informatics at the Cleveland Clinic.

Spitznagel, along with fellow alumni at the Cleveland Clinic, including Jim Wetzel, also initiated a HIT internship for JCU students to jump-start their experience in the industry. The internship experience gives students a competitive edge in the job market; it has also been a resource for Dr. Palmer to fine-tune the specialized coursework for the HIT track.

Students who opt for this track complete the requirements for the traditional CS or CIT majors, with modifications that add core courses in HIT, as well as a healthcare technical internship. Upon graduation, they are prepared for any CS or CIT field while having specialized training and experience in the healthcare industry, where the Bureau of Labor and Statistics identifies strong job growth continuing beyond 2020.

The idea for the HIT specialty evolved when Dr. David Piraino, from the Cleveland Clinic's Departments of Diagnostic Radiology and Orthopaedic Surgery, asked Dr. Palmer if his students could utilize social media concepts to develop a software tool to view x-rays and collect data online.

The result, a web-based image viewer dubbed 'radiollaboration,' enables doctors to view the identical image at their convenience and to see each others' comments as they are added (a la Facebook.) Its convenience and accessibility eliminates duplicative efforts, saves time and allows for deeper collaboration among a variety of doctors.

Currently, the Cleveland Clinic is further testing and tweaking 'radiollaboration,' with commercialization a future prospect.

Not bad for an impromptu undergraduate research project and certainly a win for the Cleveland Clinic, John Carroll University, and most importantly, the students, who will have fresh opportunities to apply their academic ingenuity in the real world while completing the healthcare information technology track as part of their STEM major in CS or CIT.

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