Thursday, June 23, 2016

Student/Alumni Profile - Kayla White-Kusilek

Name: Kayla White-Kusilek
Current Employer: Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of MN
Program/Degree/Graduation Date: HIM, graduated May 2016

Why did you choose The College of St. Scholastica’as HIIM program?

When I started researching schools that offered the Health Information Management Program, The College of St Scholastica was one of the few in this area. This school stood out to me immediately. I love the reputation of St Scholastica, and I was extremely drawn to the Benedictine values, as they relate very closely to many of my own values. They also have a very high job placement rate upon graduation. I knew that this was the school and the program I wanted to be a part of so I applied and was accepted! I am so happy with my decision and am very proud to be a St. Scholastica Alumni.

What is your favorite part of taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

I was a part of the online program of HIIM and I loved the flexibility of taking classes online. I was able to work full time and go to school. I loved getting the hands on experience at work and being able to relate work to my classes.

What are your goals for after you earn your HIIM degree/certificate from The College of St. Scholastica?

Short term I am going to continue working in the Health Information Management department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and pass my RHIA / I am going to take a year off
of school and then obtain my Masters. Long term I would like to manage an area of HIM.

What advice would you give to someone considering entering a HIIM Program at The College of St. Scholastica?

Try to go shadow a HIM department at a hospital or clinic. It is not at all what you would expect, there is so much growth right now in this area of health care. These departments are truly an asset to most health care organizations and seeing this should make you very excited to become a part of it all. This will also give you a good idea of whether or not this is the right path for you.
What hobbies do you enjoy? 

Hunting, Archery, Riding horse, camping, being outside

What is your favorite movie? 

The Other Women, The Proposal, and The Notebook

What is your favorite travel destination? 

Anywhere warm with a beach!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reflections from Vicki Zeman: "Recipe for Success"

Many important events have recently taken place in my life, but the most recent - being selected as Distinguished Member in 2016 by the Minnesota Health Information Management Association - gave me reason to pause, remember and reflect. I am personally at that period in time where many things are coming to a close (while many other things are beginning), and as someone greater than myself once said “all good things must come to an end.”

In all honesty, I have never been a person who sought or wanted awards. I did not and do not enjoy being in the ‘limelight.’ What I sought as a working professional was to love what I did and do it well.  To feel like what I did mattered and to feel that I was a valued member of a group. To enjoy my work. To find true satisfaction.  When I was contacted about being nominated for the Distinguished Member Award I was taken aback, because I was so sure there were many more people more deserving then me! My professional work provided me with great challenges and satisfaction, especially my years at St. Scholastica. My professional involvement was often hit and miss as I balanced work and single parenthood, but the friendships that resulted from professional involvement were deeply rewarding both professionally and personally. The love of learning and love of teaching were (and are) constants in my life.

As I look back I realize that loving what you do professionally is a true gift. I practiced Health Information Management for thirteen years before joining the faculty at St. Scholastica.  I was blessed to find my ‘sweet spot’ in HIM when I began teaching at CSS.  In addition, I worked with people who also loved what they did and provided a nurturing environment for learning, growing and developing every aspect of me as a person and a professional. The pushes I received were gentle but consistent, while the support and love was unceasing. I worked in what I think can be termed a true “safe’ place. I was able to translate my love for the profession and colleagues into a deeply caring and nurturing environment for students and learning. In reflection, I found a true recipe for success!

Where we go as professionals can be carefully planned, but the one thing that is certain in life is change! The one constant! We should continue to adapt, always be willing to learn and be willing to try new things. These skills can make for truly exciting and rich life and professional experiences. Know that being a part of the community of HIM professionals requires that we share our experiences and knowledge, as it can only enhance our life as people and professionals. We all have to grow and develop and participate willingly in community efforts to share knowledge and nurture others. That is how we move forward professionally!

If I could change anything, I wish I had started teaching sooner! Working with students and helping them grow their knowledge base and to develop the ability to solve problems and make good decisions has been the most satisfying part of my professional experience. Attending the MHIMA Annual Meeting to receive the Distinguished Member Award for 2016 allowed me to reconnect with so many young professionals (alums) who are out there working hard, growing professionally and personally, and spreading the understanding of HIM. It was a highlight of a lifetime!  I felt so special and so loved and so proud all at once.  Find your ‘sweet spot’ and share what you know through community connections such as MHIMA or AHIMA or whatever organization fits your professional needs best. And, above all, keep growing and keep learning!

~Vicki Zeman

Vicki Zeman, center, with current and past HIIM faculty and staff at the 2016 MHIMA Distinguished Member Luncheon

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Are You Going to Measure That?

Dr. David Marc
In the wake of the recent spring commencement, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my teaching and the achievements of my students (in addition to our BS and MS students in HIM, the first group of MS Health Informatics students graduated from CSS last Saturday!) I teach numerous classes that require students to evaluate previously published studies, datasets, or technology, and I’m often asking students to answer a single question over and over again….“How are you going to measure that?”

This single question has wide application in healthcare: how will you measure patient outcomes, the impact of new technology, cost effectiveness? Despite easily being able to generate many versions of the question, these queries are not easily answered.

However, the question reaches well beyond healthcare. During the commencement ceremony, I listened as my students were called to receive their diplomas.  While waving to the students and celebrating their achievement, I began to ponder this question: “How are they going to measure this?” As graduates of our programs how will they determine the effects, the opportunity, and the challenges that this degree will offer them?

The most obvious gauge is simply knowledge. The coursework and methodologies learned in earning this degree will afford students the knowledge to be successful in their careers. They now have a deeper understanding of healthcare, data, analytical methods, project management and empirical approaches. This alone is measurable.

The second mark, of course, relates to money. Graduates from baccalaureate and graduate programs will likely earn more money because of their degree and the job opportunities that become available. These things are measurable.

You can also measure the friends they have made, the people they have met, and the experiences they have had over the course of completing their degree. You can measure their personal gratification and the recognition from their family. The last piece was easily observable in the look in mothers’ and fathers’ eyes as their child walked across the commencement stage, in the awe of children seeing a parent achieve something great, and in the continued encouragement and congratulations from spouses. These things are measurable.

So if you are a graduate and hear that this achievement is immeasurable, kindly disagree and explain that the measures are quite obvious. Look around you! Look at the people that have supported you in the past and will continue to support you in the future: faculty, friends, family, and even strangers that recognize your achievement. These are effortless assessments. Look inside you! Look at the knowledge, the sense of achievement, personal gratification, and the level of passion that you have for your profession. These things, too, are easy to measure.

Let’s not forget this simple question and continue to consider "How are we going to measure that?" Finally, let’s thank everyone who has ever had any measurable impact on our achievements.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!!!

~David Marc

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Alumni Profile - Emily Morley

Name: Emily Morley, RHIA
Year of Graduation: 2012

Current Employer: Shriners Hospitals for Children - Chicago
Position: Manager, HIM & HIPAA Privacy Officer

What are your current job duties and how did your education at The College of St. Scholastica prepare you to be successful at those duties?
 As our professors at CSS always told us in class, “you will wear many hats as an HIM professional.” This is definitely the case in my current role, as my job duties include managing the HIM department, working as HIPAA Privacy Officer of the hospital, acting as a CDI Specialist support, and providing oversight of implementation of policies and procedures regarding health information. Further responsibilities include deficiency reporting and statistics, new provider and resident orientation, state and JCAHO reporting for accreditation, and just about anything else that could fall under those umbrellas.

My education from The College of St. Scholastica more than prepared me for success; our valued instructors taught us to be versatile above anything else. They did not focus on one or two areas of expertise within the HIIM realm, but rather introduced us to all the various areas of our degree. This was also helpful in determining my future career path as I cannot thank my professors enough for providing me the ability to adapt to such a dynamic profession.

What is most rewarding about your work in HIIM?
 Working collaboratively with various departments to improve patient care is the most rewarding aspect of this position. Between working with risk management, medical staff, and quality assurance, no day is ever the same. I love the variety. As an HIM professional, I am tasked with making a significant contribution to the hospital’s performance. I enjoy having a seat at that table.

HIIM is an ever-changing field. What do you see coming on the horizon?
 I feel that HIPAA auditing and compliance is currently, and will continue, to hit entities hard. We continue to see how technology is shaping healthcare, and the push to get the latest and the greatest to interface with our electronic health records. The Office of the Inspector General will be rolling out their permanent audit plan in the near future and we need to recognize future implications for our organization in order to stay compliant.
What one piece of advice would you offer to current students?
 I was once told to “never be the smartest person in the room.” In my first role as a supervisor, I remember wanting to have all of the knowledge my mentors and superiors had in meetings. Three career moves later, and that quote could never be truer. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Move out of your comfort zone and learn as much as you can from other professionals.

What hobbies do you enjoy? 
 I am a pretty big baseball fan, the Minnesota Twins in particular (53 days until Home Opener as I write this!). I recently moved to Chicago, though, and am starting to warm up to the Cubs. Do not worry fellow Minnesotans, I could never be a White Sox fan.

What is your favorite movie? 
 If I have to pick one, I would have to say A Few Good Men. You can’t beat that courtroom scene when Jack Nicholson takes the stand. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Perspectives in Health Information Management

Megan Munns
Although time as a student at the College of Saint Scholastica may be limited by the completion of a degree program, strong connections are created that stretch into to the professional world and last a lifetime.  The recently published work of CSS alum and College Trustee, Beth Haenke Just ('78), and CSS alum, Megan Munns ('11), along with Health Informatics and Information Management faculty members Ryan Sandefer and David Marc, exemplifies the strength and power of those ongoing relationships.  Their article, "Why Patient Matching Is a Challenge: Research on Master Patient Index (MPI) Data Discrepancies in Key Identifying Fields" was published in the Spring 2016 edition of AHIMA’s Research Journal, Perspectives.  The article examined common patient identifier matching errors, and is at the forefront of industry research and impact.
Beth Just

Beth Just reflects on the meaning of this work: “Accurate patient matching has been a challenge for years in our industry, but has become increasingly complex as the volume of records in EMR databases are much larger than they were even five years ago.  Although there has become greater awareness of the complexities of accurate patient matching in the industry, our goal with this research was to help the industry understand why it is so complex.  Subsequent research is needed on record matching algorithms and other technologies in place to address this challenge and Just Associates hopes to again lead that effort with CSS.”

The methodology, deep understanding, and potential influence in their research and subsequent article shows how CSS faculty, students, and alumni continue to lead in information management and analytics. The experience exemplifies one of the college’s best characteristics for David Marc. He says “A core value at CSS is community. We strive to demonstrate community by maintaining contact with all our alumni and when the opportunity surfaces we work collaboratively on research, presentations, or other projects. The opportunity to work closely with Just Associates on a large volume of data was an absolutely wonderful experience. Just Associates is a leader in the patient matching industry and we had a chance to work with the best of the best. What made this experience even sweeter is that the best of the best are former CSS students.”

This is a notable achievement, yet it is only one of the many stories that can be told about CSS HIIM.  We are dedicated to sharing these stories in a broader and deeper voice, and have recently entered the world of social media to expand and bolster our network. Please consider connecting with us, as we would love to tell you about the great things that we know are happening, and we want to hear about your amazing achievements that haven’t yet been noted!  Find us on Twitter @CSSHIIM, visit our Facebook page at, and consider joining our LinkedIn Group

If you have good ideas for articles or features, or know of achievements that deserve recognition, please get in touch with our department manager, Eric Nordgren, at or 218-723-7025.

Vivat St. Scholastica!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Practice What You Preach!

I’m bad; I haven’t practice what I preached. There, I've admitted it out loud. Now, for how bad I have been…

There’s an extra credit assignment in HIM3132 Medicolegal for CSS HIM juniors in their fall semester; after the unit that covers advanced directives (AD), living wills and healthcare proxy. It’s a chance for students to earn five extra credit points if their parent emails me confirming that the student have had the arduous, uncomfortable conversation about the aforementioned topic. I am routinely heartened by the parents’ notes of gratitude for catalyzing this dialogue; some share stories of situations regarding the students’ grandparents that went either well with or awry sans an AD.

In the same vein as my previous blog, I highlighted the visit from LifeSource. A driver’s license, if so designated, is the first line of notification that a driver is on the organ donor registry, a form of AD, if you will. If a motor vehicle accident (MVA) gives cause for a donor to be rendered appropriate for donation, the driver’s license typically sets the legal direction for that chosen designation. But, what if the situation doesn’t involve an MVA? What if the person becomes a patient that, in turn, is in an irrecoverable vegetative state and, now, viable for organ donation? If a person has an AD on file, preferably in their medical record, the healthcare team would refer to that legal document for procedural direction and life becomes perpetuated.

But, I digress. Back to why I’m bad: I created an assignment about ADs and I arranged for an organ procurement organization to present on campus about a form of AD so nearly 100 people could hear the important message yet, I do not have an AD on file. Do you? If not, let’s, shall we? If you do, I will…I promise.

~Madonna LeBlanc

Questions? See the link below:
Minnesota Law and Questions/Answers about Health Care Directives:

Ready for the real thing? FREE printable document at the link below:
MN Board on Aging

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to Save a Life

Typically, when a phone rings in the wee hours of the night, fear and trepidation surface quickest. For my father-in-law, it was the call he had waited five years to receive: there’s a kidney on its way to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) for you. They flew him from International Falls to Minneapolis; my mother-in-law was ill so our young family left Fargo to meet him at the hospital as her proxy. For five, long, grueling years that blessed woman kept her husband on home dialysis; using an 8th grade education, a 6 week crash course, and sheer determination. If not for her courage and heroine-ism in 1986, they would have had to drive an hour and fifty minutes one way to Hibbing for dialyzing. For the next five comparatively glorious years post-transplant, they enjoyed an untethered life, free from dialysis, until their untimely deaths in 1990 and 1991, cancer taking them both at the all-too-soon ages of 60 and 61. The paternal side of my husband’s family has been part of studies at HCMC as there is a prominent familial history of polycystic kidney disease (view this video for a brief synopsis of PKD: While my spouse is free from PKD, his oldest brother has been diagnosed and our children need to be vigilant. Once the cysts have progressed too greatly they render the kidneys non-functioning and dialysis or transplant are the only options for survival. As you can imagine, I am driven to promote organ donor awareness.  And, what better vehicle than the HIM profession to herald such a message?

On Tuesday, March 29, the Student Health Information Management Association (SHIMA) and the HIIM Department Faculty/Student Committee had the distinct pleasure of hosting LifeSource ( as part of the HIM spring semester initiative to elevate the major prior to advisement. Our guests were hospital liaison, Katelyn Wilson, RN, BSN, BSW, and Donor Life ambassador, Gloria Mattakat. They delivered their presentation titled, “Let Life Bloom: Saving Lives through Donation and Transplantation” in the Science auditorium to an audience of nearly 100 faculty, staff and students. HIM senior Faculty/Student Committee representative, Abby Ceglar, introduced the guests and gave some background on SHIMA and the HIM major to a crowd comprised mostly of students from the School of Health Science or the freshman Dignitas program.

Katelyn began with a historical timeline of organ transplantation from the early 1900’s through current day, presented the process of donation from transport of the donor to the hospital to the lifelong aftercare afforded the donor families. The related regional and national statistics generated several breath-taking waves, as 22 people die each day waiting for an organ and each donor can potentially provide up to 60 specimens of donation: tissue, organs and bones. Ambassador Gloria shared her son’s story of donation, which started on Thanksgiving Day, 1993. She conceded that, while she had told the story countless times, she still needed note cards to propel her through the events. Gloria was poised and stoic as she shared her family’s initial heartache and eventual consolation.

I've really treasured reading the students' reflection papers on this event. They're quick to relate how the statistics were halting and alarming, and they were so heart-warmed by Gloria and her courageous sharing of her family's story. Most mentioned the importance of keeping this message going and having the conversation to educate and encourage others to consider becoming donors. Mission: accomplished! (...until we put Katelyn out of a job by reaching that Utopian 100% registered designated donors.) Please join me and LifeSource in perpetuating this critical message of hope and possibility!

-Madonna LeBlanc