IST alumni, students working behind the scenes to impact patient care

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles on College of IST students and alumni who are utilizing the skills and knowledge they developed at Penn State to make an impact in a variety of industries.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When one thinks of health care practitioners, doctors and nurses most likely come to mind. But there are teams of people — including those in information technology — working behind the scenes in ways that directly impact patients, from securing medical records to studying hospital analytics.

The three IST alumni and students highlighted below are among many from the College of Information Sciences and Technology who are currently applying their technical skills and backgrounds in the health care industry through their careers and summer internships.

Alumnus blends medical background with tech as informatics analyst

Steve Ney, who earned his IST degree through Penn State World Campus in 2010, is an informatics analyst for Geisinger Health. He began working for Geisinger prior to completing his bachelor’s degree, first serving as a laboratory assistant then as a research assistant in pediatric hematology and oncology.

“Using the fighting spirit of the kids that I saw every day at work, plus the unwavering support of my family, I was able to complete my Penn State IST degree program,” he said.

Ney — who lives in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, with his wife, April, and their three children — began his career in the IT telecommunications department the Monday after graduation, and then moved up to his current role.

“I worked very hard over the years and have now landed in a position to provide analytics which helps Geisinger continue to be successful,” said Ney.

He explained that the Geisinger health system comprises both the organization’s medical centers and the health insurance programs, which requires him to tap into a background outside his IST training.

“An analyst, data or informatics, needs to be able to have knowledge of the overall medicine field, including health insurance, health business, and markets and demands,” he said.

Ney encourages current IST students to explore how they can bring their technological expertise to industries that align with their backgrounds, interests and passions.

“Information science is a vital part of all companies big and small, tech to farms,” he said. “The skills and knowledge of an IST graduate can allow you to pursue a life where you can bring tech to a company where your impact can be substantial and provide you with a fulfilling career.”

Ney does that by combining his pre-degree medical background with the education and experiences he gained in the College of IST.

“The skills gained from my education have provided me with the ability to not only understand how to answer a business need, but also to be able to get my hands dirty with coding and working with the apps to get the best possible answer,” he said.

In addition to what he learned in the classroom, Ney said that he received plenty of help on his path through Penn State. That aid inspired him to pay it forward through his service as a member of the IST Alumni Society’s board of directors.

“With the help of scholarships and guidance, and many other ways, I was able to complete my degree and have a successful career so far,” he said.

Unlikely internship helps student prepare for military future

Senior Rebecca Plummer didn’t initially seek out an internship in the health care industry. As a security and risk analysis major aspiring for a career as an Air Force intelligence officer, she had hoped to work for a government agency this summer. During her search, however, she discovered AmeriHealth Caritas, a health care solutions provider for low-income and chronically ill populations.

“[The company’s] mission hit home for me, with them focusing on helping underprivileged and disabled people get health care,” she said.

As part of AmeriHealth Caritas’ information security team, Plummer helps to protect customer and employee information and to prevent actors from hacking into the system. Plummer is primarily focused on phishing attempts, where those attacks are coming from, and who they are targeting. Her department also responds to violations of HIPAA compliance where personally identifiable information and protected health information is compromised in some way.

“I think most people believe that only large corporations need security, but in reality, every business needs to have an information security department,” she said. “By working in smaller and diverse industries, you can obtain a massive amount of knowledge you might not otherwise receive. Those diverse industries come with opportunities you might never imagine.”

Although she didn’t secure an internship this summer with a government agency, Plummer knows that the skills she is building at AmeriHealth Caritas will help her in her future career.

“[As an Air Force intelligence officer] I want to be able to analyze data and prevent bad things from happening,” she said. “This internship is providing me with the essential tools I will need to be successful in my career, such as a variety of analytic software that I can explore.”

She added, “I have been given a priceless opportunity. Not only am I being enriched with experience, but I also get the opportunity each day to be in a professional setting.”

Plummer is thankful for the chance to put what she’s learned in the classroom to the test.

“This internship allows me to dig deeper and apply the material [I’ve learned from my courses] to real life,” she said. “I would not have been able to learn all of the things I am learning now with a high-profile government position.”

Impacting the lives of thousands in the community

Senior Previn Joseph accepted an internship position with St. Luke’s University Health Network this summer for an appealing reason: it was close to home. Despite his enthusiasm, he was unsure if he would enjoy doing IT in an industry that doesn’t focus on technology.

“The experience has been eye opening,” he said. “Health care is growing, and its dependence on technology means that they need more people who can understand and help with their technology needs.”

In his role this summer, Joseph and his team provide the tools and technology that doctors, nurses and other clinical staff need to provide patients with the best possible care. Joseph has been involved with integrating new applications and tools for doctors to use to evaluate patients, establishing strong security measures to protect patient data, and implementing devices for patient use.

“These are just some of the ways IT is impacting the lives of thousands of people in the community,” he said. “It makes me proud to know that I am a part of it.”

As a student pursuing a degree in information sciences and technology, Joseph said that his education has taught him how to conduct himself in a professional environment. His IST instructors also have taught him to analyze data and present solutions that can improve current processes.

He encourages fellow students to consider looking outside tech companies when exploring internship and career opportunities.

“Almost every industry today uses technology to some extent,” he said. “However, not every industry has enough people that are capable of fulfilling their information technology needs.”

He added, “Students can possibly combine their different passions and land a position that will let them work with the different things they love. Everyone is looking for skilled people who can push technological innovation.”

Last Updated July 12, 2018