Ep 27: Valerie Rogers: Forging The Path Toward Connected Health Systems

Our latest Diva Tech Talk interview is with Valerie Rogers, MPH, Director of State Government Affairs for HIMSS, a global organization focused on better health through information technology. As a cause-based non-profit, HIMSS North America provides thought leadership, community building, professional development, public policy, and events; and represents 61,000 individual members, 640 corporate members, and over 450 non-profit organizations.  

The granddaughter of a breakthrough woman leader, who owned her own successful business in the 1930’s, Valerie’s selfless path was strongly influenced by two older female cousins (a toxicologist and a primary care practitioner) who she described as “smart, sassy women.” All three of them became involved in health care, in her opinion, to fulfill the dreams of her grandmother, who had always wanted to help her community as a nurse but didn’t have the same opportunities as later generations of women.

Originally obtaining her undergraduate degree in Sociology, Valerie found herself first drawn to the environmental health field.  She initially worked for the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. (SERCAP) helping small rural towns and communities upgrade their water and waste water systems. Her first exposure to technology was the use of GIS and GPS systems, emerging in the late 1990’s, for mapping toxic waste water sites. She instantly fell in love with what that technology could do.

Returning to get her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Tulane University with a concentration in environmental health policy, Valerie then spent the next 12 years at NACCHO (The National Association of County and City Health Officials) in ever-evolving roles. While at NACCHO, she credits a health informatics course at Johns Hopkins Institute of Public Health for her burgeoning romance with data.  “I fell in love with informatics because of the promise it holds,” Valerie said “for those of us working in the health space. “

At NACCHO, one of Valerie’s proud accomplishments was the convening of a group of diverse stakeholders across a broad spectrum of the public health field, which turned into the Joint Informatics Public Health Task Force —a profound influence on public policy surrounding health IT, and the secure exchange of medical information and records.  Valerie considers that experience exemplary of one of her personal strengths: “bringing together people working at the grassroots level” and being a catalyst to connect people in the field and change-making innovators. “We can’t move forward if we are ‘siloed’, ” she explained. “We need to work toward connected health in the deepest sense.”

Valerie kept asking herself the questions: “How could I be a mechanism for building greater awareness and understanding of the value of health information exchange?” and “How can we leverage this technology across the spectrum of health, including behavioral health, public health, clinical care and overall human services?”  In her mind, HIMSS, which she joined within the last year, is part of the answer to those questions.

The broad and intelligent use of data in health care, for Valerie, is indicative of leaders “aspiring to something much greater than the technology and innovation, itself. It’s really to impact lives.”  On this podcast she shared just one heart-wrenching anecdote of a woman, living in an abusive situation, whose circumstances were profoundly and positively improved by the fact that data was being collected and exchanged among the health systems treating her.

In her rich career, thus far, Valerie amassed leadership skills and knowledge and shared the following three tips with our audience:

  • Be true to yourself.  Start early. Build on your strengths.
  • Keep learning. Don’t ever stop. “You never know, down the road, how you might be able to leverage your knowledge to help someone,” she simply said.
  • Don’t be afraid to be a teacher, and build a cohort of women and girls.

Clearly Valerie, herself, is a very connected teacher and giver! She can be reached at vrogers@himss.org or on Twitter at @vnrogers74.

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