The Women in AMIA Leadership Program: That’s a wrap!

October 30th, 2020 / By Rachael Howe, RN, MS, Tiffany Harman, RN, BSN

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) inaugural Women in AMIA (WIA) Leadership Program has completed its first year! We are honored to be in the inaugural group and have written about the program in our introductory blog. We next shared our learning experience in our follow-up blog on self-reflection, and are now reporting on our capstone projects that concluded our year of participation.

Our final WIA two-day workshop was hosted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The leadership cohort was engaged, collaborative, present and mindful. We started with each participant providing an elevator speech to the group about where they were with their goals and careers since the start of the program. It was powerful to see the cohort evolve; each person was able to step outside their comfort zone. It was noticeable that each participant now had the knowledge, courage and leadership skills to take charge of their career paths. We also practiced decision-making by learning about a formal decision-making model. Each group was able to frame a problem by identifying the “What,” understanding the “Who” and figuring out the “How.” Role playing was key to understanding this model and helped us to discuss real problems we had encountered and how to solve them.

As mentioned in our last blog, we were placed into peer support groups of 4-5 fellow scholars. One of the group activities was a capstone project, presented to the leadership group, sponsors and the AMIA Board of Directors during this workshop. Rachael’s group presented a survey on women at the University of Utah in leadership positions, which included the following topics:

  1. Number of women in leadership positions
  2. Women’s salary compared to their male counterparts’ pay
  3. Women’s education level compared to the men’s in the same position
  4. The long-term impact of pay gaps and other areas of focus

Tiffany’s group, named FIERCE (Females Inspiring and Empowering a Community for Equality), engaged women leaders to create four short YouTube videos that address the following topics:

  1. How to be a good leader
  2. Leadership challenges
  3. Leadership wisdom
  4. Women in leadership

Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, there was some money left in the WIA program budget, so we were offered the opportunity to write a seed grant proposal for useful follow-up activities. Team FIERCE (with Rachael moving to the group to help) was awarded a grant to produce future WIA podcasts that will showcase the diverse voices in the WIA community, thus expanding the mission, vision and goals for AMIA podcasts. We are excited to have this avenue to continue our support for the WIA program and our journey of personal development.

Overall, we learned valuable leadership skills throughout the program. Clare Coonan, owner at Adjacent Consulting, was a wonderful coach. We met monthly and she helped guide not just our career goals but our lives as well. Merida Johns, PhD, RHIA, Founder and Director of the Monarch Center was also a wonderful mentor in women’s leadership, and between the two of them we have learned how to accept ourselves and be the leaders we were meant to be, continuing to grow as professionals and making sure our voices are heard.

As a way of “paying it forward,” one workshop activity was to create a strategic plan for the next year of the WIA program. This required us to “interview our clients” (Clare and Merida), and then plan the strategy for moving forward, including the program’s mission, vision, values, objectives and project plan. The activity was effectively a “proof” of what we’d learned and expressed our wish for other women to get to experience the same growth and strong sense of community that we did. We’re proud to be featured in the “Highlight on Women Leaders” section on page six of the September 2020 WIA newsletter; a big thank you to 3M for sponsoring this program!

Rachael Howe is a nurse informaticist with the Clinical Terminology group at 3M Health Information Systems, and is a member of the Healthcare Data Dictionary (HDD) team.

Tiffany Harman, RN, BSN is the project manager for the 3M Healthcare Data Dictionary (HDD) team.