Going The Distance | Eastern North Carolina Now | A distance education student from the Charlotte area has become the first person to graduate from East Carolina University with a master's degree in health informatics and information management.

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    Publisher's note: The author of this post, Kathryn Kennedy, is a contributor to ECU News Services.

Health Informatics & Information Management graduates first student

    A distance education student from the Charlotte area has become the first person to graduate from East Carolina University with a master's degree in health informatics and information management.

    Rhonda Joyner, of Indian Trail, completed her required internship this summer and is now seeking employment in the health care industry. She chose the concentration in health information management, and thus is eligible to become a registered health information administrator and work in a range of health care settings across the continuum of care — from hospitals to physician practices to long-term care and mental health facilities.

    "I was always interested in health care but I knew I couldn't handle the clinical side — dealing with blood and patients who were ill," Joyner explained. "Everything (about the program) was challenging because I didn't have a clinical background. But I wanted to be challenged and ECU definitely gave me that."

    ECU's Department of Health Services and Information Management - housed in the College of Allied Health Sciences - launched the inaugural graduate program in 2013. The degree program offers two concentrations: one in health informatics and a second in health information management.

    "The health care environment and the management of health care data have been greatly influenced by the field of informatics and technological advancements, such as the electronic health record," said Dr. Susie Harris, associate professor and HIIM program director. "As a result, federal, state and regional projections show there is a real need for professionals with advanced knowledge and training in health informatics and information management."

    The degree builds on a previously established graduate certificate in health informatics, which Joyner completed in 2013 before enrolling in the master's program.

    "Ms. Joyner demonstrates professionalism, clear written and oral communications, and multi-tasking skills as she worked and took two to three courses during the fall and spring semesters and one course during a short, compact summer semester," Harris said. "She secured a paid internship experience (at Carolinas Healthcare System) and received an outstanding evaluation from the internship site. Determination, enthusiasm and commitment characterize Ms. Joyner."

    Joyner attended school while working full time, and is also a married mother of three who are excited "to get their mommy back," she said. Distance learning proved the right fit for her busy life and educational goals, but she advises other potential students to consider what learning style works for them.

    "I like distance learning, but people should assess who they are and how they learn (before enrolling in any program)," she said.

    Joyner also holds a bachelor's degree in marketing from South Carolina State University and an MBA from Clemson University.

    More students are expected to graduate from the Health Informatics and Information Management master's program this fall. For more information about the program, visit http://www.ecu.edu/hsim/.

ECU distance education student Rhonda Joyner is the first graduate of the master's program in health informatics and information management, which is housed in the College of Allied Health Sciences. (Photo by Jay Clark)

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