How Prakash is thriving in Health Information Management with international healthcare education and experience

Today is the final day of Health Information Management week and we are happy to share this story as part of our student showcase, to highlight the stories of our diverse community of learners across Canada.     

Share a short bio about yourself and anything else that makes you unique or that you want people to know about you: 

Student: Prakash  

Stream: Part-time Year 1 

Age Range: 45-54 

Location: Markham, ON 

I am a foreign trained medical graduate with a master level education in public health from the University of London. If not a doctor, I would have become a pharmacist. Yes, I love Pharmacology. Luckily, I had the opportunity to teach Pharmacology to international medical students for one term in the undergraduate medical program at the Nanchang University in China.  

 I was born in a village in rural Gujarat, India. I did my schooling in various government and private schools initially in rural areas, and then in an urban city in Gujarat state. But in all the schools that I have attended, the medium of instruction was Gujarati. I learned my first English alphabet in grade 5. Being a strong student, I was accepted into medical school.  

After becoming a doctor, I got married and started my own private general practice. My father has always taught us if we want to develop humanity, we need to make two fundamental pillars very strong. One is health and the other is education. I was a primary healthcare provider in the community like my father.  

Our family also ran a primary school where only children whose parents living in the slums were admitted. The school was run by family funds without any government aid, and we provided primary and secondary level education. We closed the school after my father succumbed to cancer and I immigrated to Canada.  

What drew you into the field of HIM and your studies? 

In Canada, my first professional healthcare experience was as a research volunteer at St. Michael’s hospital. I became a part of a death study, the largest epidemiological mortality study of its kind. The morality data was collected through verbal autopsies completed by trained health volunteers. They would visit homes where a death had occurred without medical help in the last 5 years. The interview narrative was in the local language, along with answers to a structured questionnaire which was reviewed by two independent physicians to decide the medical cause of death and assign an ICD 10 code. If ICD 10 codes by both physicians matched, then the record was considered complete. If the ICD 10 code did not match, a third senior physician would adjudicate and give the final ICD 10 code for the record 

I was accepted as a volunteer translator because I have a medical background and was able to understand the 3 different Indian languages. Later, they trained me to work as a physician coder, where I diagnosed a medical cause of death, recorded and assigned an ICD 10 code to it. The record became a part of a large mortality database for researchers to study causes of deaths and trends of various diseases over time. Working as a research assistant I developed an affinity for ICD 10 codes and decided to find out how I could utilize my medical and coding knowledge professionally.  

I took a two-month sabbatical to study a bridging program in health informatics at Skills for Change. That was a significant event, which completely changed my life. Instead of health informatics I became interested in clinical documentation improvement. I decided to pursue it, and then joined the 3M-CHIMA CDI program. Until that time, no one knew about CDI and whether there were job opportunities for it in Canada. I knew CDI was very well developed in the USA, but it seemed to be a budding branch in Canada.  

Luckily, SickKids advertised for a CDI specialist position for which I applied and was successful in getting the position. The CDI specialist works as a bridge between the physicians and coders. The HIM certificate or promise to complete it, was a prerequisite to efficiently function in the role of a CDI specialist. I applied for the online HIM program at CHA Learning because the job required it, and out of my interest to give due justice to work and for personal work satisfaction.  

Tell us about your professional, academic or other experience prior to beginning your studies in HIM 

I will say I am a senior student with a lot of research, clinical and academic experience in various healthcare organizations in different parts of the world.  

After becoming a medical doctor, I worked as a full-time medical officer at a tertiary care private hospital in India. After getting enough clinical experience I started my own private general medical practice in the community. While being a GP I also studied industrial and occupational health and provided health services to factory workers. Later, I joined Radiology as a tutor where I developed computer literacy.  

Computer and internet literacy helped me in deciding to study public health which took me to work in China and Malaysia. Just before immigrating to Canada, I was a medical officer at an Antiretroviral therapy (ART) center providing healthcare to HIVinfected patients at a teaching hospital.  

My Canadian academic experiences involved two bridging programs, one taken at Ryerson University, for internationally trained medical doctors, and another at Skills for Change in Health informatics. I have also completed the CDI education program and became a certified CDI specialist – a first ever graduate of the CDI national certifying exam of the country. I have worked as a research assistant at St. Michael’s hospital for 3 years. Working as a research assistant I have developed strong skills in attention to detailwhich is what my current job demands. I have worked as a CDI Specialist at SickKids for the last year. 

Why did you choose to study with CHA Learning?  

What amazed me about CHA learning is the way they provide support and guidance even before I became a student. Their service helps students choose the right course but also ensures that when they begin their studies, they are well informed about their chosen field. When I became a student with CHA Learning I received this exceptional support from them. I applied at the last moment, and my application was accepted with exemptions for the subjects I learned in my undergraduate medical study in India.  

The flexibility to work and study at the same time was important to me.  CHA Learning provided not only the online study option but is also the least taxing financially compared to other programs. I first planned on doing the full-time stream because I received exemptions from several courses, but a personal injury changed my plan and I am now a part-time student. 

Pick and describe one memorable experience during your education with CHA Learning 

My first mid-term in October was a bit chaotic. The day before the exam I reminded my invigilator that I would be writing the following day. He mentioned the email received from CHA Learning giving him the password to unlock the exam and confirmed his presence in the office. On exam day at 9am his office was closed.  

I contacted him and found out that he had taken his wife to the hospital in the early morning due to labour pains. To my surprise he had contacted the CHA Learning Program Coordinator to make alternative arrangements and I was able to write the exam and finish before the deadline.  

What really touched me was the professionalism he demonstrated during the adverse circumstances. I was overwhelmed by the cooperation I received from CHA Learning to ensure that I did not miss the exam. I felt that although this is a distance learning program, the distance is not too far when students need help and support. 

If you are interested in our Health Information Management Program read more about our full-time and part-time options. Applications are now open for the September 2020 intake.      

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