Meeting & Making Wonder Women at #HIMSS18

I’m home from HIMSS and the post-HIMSSanity is finally starting to fade, giving me time for more focused (i.e. well-rested) reflection on the many female-friendly events that took place last week in Las Vegas. I love HIMSS for a number of reasons. It gets me out of my home office and into the thick of healthcare technology. It affords me a hotel room all to myself(!) for several days, and pulls me away from the typical day-to-day routine. A week without laundry, dishes, kid logistics, etc. is good for the soul. Absence, after all, does make the heart grow fonder.

I even got the chance to catch up on movies during my flight there and back. I enjoyed one of my biggest guilty pleasures – watching superhero flicks, uninterrupted by requests for snacks or bedtime routines. Though I’m typically more of a Marvel girl, the DC-inspired Wonder Woman was my absolute favorite in-flight movie. Given the excitement generated by the Wonder Woman socks I wore at the annual #healthITchicks meetup at HIMSS (thank you @janicemccallum!), I thought I’d reflect on the many Wonder Women of all ages and career stages I met at the conference.

Given the amount of attention HIMSS has given to #WomenInHIT, I was not surprised to find the conference’s agenda filled with sessions either led by women or focused on women’s professional development. (“Manels” were definitely not a thing in Vegas.) I am still kicking myself for not grabbing one of the ribbons above from the ribbon wall kiosk at the beginning of the conference. I hear they ran out quickly.

I was surprised that the HIMSS Bookstore didn’t carry any sort of literature related to women in healthcare technology. I think that’s a situation that the #healthITchicks community could easily remedy in time for HIMSS19. Email healthITchicks@gmail.com if you’re interested in helping brainstorm editorial content.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find zero booth-babe presence on the show floor, despite being emailed several examples of companies looking to supply such talent. The closest exhibition of such a trend occurred when I came across an exhibitor that had hired a body painting artist to paint anatomy on male and female models.

The Doyenne Connections meetup on Monday was filled with friends old and new, many of whom were scheduled to present later in the week. Check out the Doyenne Connections website for opportunities to meet and retreat with women working in health IT.

While the aforementioned socks did catch the attention of many tweeters during the #healthITchicks meetup, they were by far eclipsed by the career-development wisdom shared by our panelists. Click here for pre-HIMSS interviews with panelists Lissy Hu, MD CEO of CarePort Health; Tressa Springmann, VP and CIO of LifeBridge Health; Alicia Williams, CEO of FullSight Health Analytics, Kat McDavitt, principal at Innsena Communications, and Sue Schade, principal at Starbridge Advisors.

The audience was, once again, brimming over with women (and men!) – many attending their first #healthITchicks event. I was encouraged by the fantastic questions that came from the audience, who represented all aspects of the industry and stages of professional development. Click here for a more in-depth look at our panelists and the topics they covered.

I enjoyed running into Tracy Phelps, co-founder and VP of business development at health IT staffing and consulting firm Thrive HealthIT. (I love their tag line: Give. Prosper. Thrive.) When I asked Tracy what was on her HIMSS dance card, she said she was excited about going to several women-focused networking events, though a bit worried about the lack of welcome some networking events can exude. Note to #healthITchicks: The next time you find yourself at a networking event, introduce yourself to someone, and make them feel at ease and included in whatever conversation you might have been in the middle of. Remember, it’s about inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness.

I also enjoyed meeting Imprivata SVP of Customer Experience Carina Edwards, who also sits on the board of the CHIME Foundation. She had a lot of good insight to share around the idea of developing a #healthITchicks scholarship program that I hope will come to fruition in the next year or two.

My HIMSS dance card included a brief stop by the HIMSS Women in Health IT networking reception. I loved that I rode up to the pool deck in an elevator full of men looking to show their support for their female colleagues. #MeToo seems to have really struck a chord based on the increased number of men I saw participating in these types of events compared to last year. I later heard the HIMSS party attracted over 600 attendees, which I can totally believe based on the standing room-only crowd I encountered around the pool. The picture above doesn’t really do the event justice when it comes to headcount.

I couldn’t leave without saying hello to Jess Kahn, one of the HIMSS Most Influential Woman in Health IT award winners. I got to chat with her earlier in the day at the AssessURHealth booth about the ways in which technology-enabled mental healthcare can benefit Medicaid patients. Jess is the former director of Medicaid data and systems at CMS, and now serves as a senior expert at McKinsey & Company. Talk about a Wonder Woman!

My last day at HIMSS coincided with International Women’s Day, which helped up the level of camraderie and can-do attitudes at the morning’s Mentoring Meetup. I had the privilege of co-moderating a table on “Networking for the Future” with Karen-Marie Wilding, senior director of quality and value-based care at The University of Maryland Medical System. Pregnant with her third child, Karen-Marie enthusiastically told our table of up-and-coming and award-winning (Another Most Influential Women in Health IT award winner, Kaiser Permanente Senior Director of Clinical Informatics Ann O’Brien, was seated next to me.) Wonder Women that we CAN do it all. Whether it’s juggling a job, motherhood, secondary education and more, we can (and should) lean on our support systems to accomplish our goals. Nothing’s worse than living with regret.

My final foray into the exhibit hall included a stop by the Edifecs booth to see their “WhatIRun” display, and a stop by the MedicaSoft booth downstairs to see how their hotel toiletry collection efforts for the local Safe Haven charity had progressed.

They were excited to see a grassroots effort that started at HIMSS come together for a good cause. I told them the #healthITchicks community would be happy to partner with them on a charitable project next year.

The number of movers and shakers at HIMSS was too many to count, as my encounter with the MedicaSoft team can attest. The show has always been the place to see, be seen, and learn more about health IT’s hottest topics. And yet this year there seemed to be a bit more buzz in air about the contributions and voices of women working in this industry. It was so gratifying to meet numerous Wonder Women and help those just starting out to realize that their career path is theirs to shape. I look forward to meeting and making even more wonderful women at HIMSS19 in Orlando.

@JennDennard

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