The right time: Nancy McMahon finds the right fit as one of UM-Dearborn’s first health information technology master’s degree grads

April 25, 2016

Nancy McMahon
After nearly 20 years in occupational therapy, Nancy McMahon wanted a new professional challenge.

Her husband, Joe, who worked in information technology, suggested his field. Not wanting to give up her clinical environment completely—but agreeing with him that she’d thrive using logistics and data—McMahon started to look for educational opportunities.

“We looked at different colleges and programs and nothing seemed quite right,” she said.

Until she found University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Master of Science degree in health information technology.

“In my clinical experience, I was frequently asked to lead efforts toward improving documentation and eventually toward implementing the electronic medical record platforms. So I knew this program was perfect for me,” she said. “When I emailed , I was told that it was new and just approved the day before I asked about it. Joe and I got teary-eyed. It was meant to be.”

On May 1, McMahon will become a member of the program’s first graduating class.

During her time on campus, McMahon said she’s gained knowledge about this growing field and has become increasingly confident about her choice.

“I now know how to design a data structure. I’ve learned how the various network and security technologies work and affect the healthcare IT industry,” she said. “I’ve also learned a great deal about the healthcare IT industry itself—about economic and regulatory issues and about where we are headed as a nation with these. I’m excited to be a part of this field at this particular time.”

Through her new friendships with fellow graduate students Zahra Al-Sayag and Naba Al-Sayag, she’s gained a strong support system. When McMahon’s husband Joe passed away last August from cancer, they provided camaraderie and care.

“My time on campus and my coursework became my coping mechanism. And when I wasn’t able to make it to class, Zahra and Naba recorded lectures for me. They were very thoughtful and kind,” she said.

And at a campus career fair, McMahon found her opportunity to change her professional path. She began an internship at University of Michigan Health System, which led to a full-time position as an ambulatory meaningful use lead analyst.

“I now have a very promising career with a prestigious healthcare system that’s enabled me to be able to support my family and secure our future. I am so grateful that this program was available at just the right time for me.”

With her UM-Dearborn educational experience culminating at Crisler Center soon, McMahon will walk to get her degree with her parents, in-laws, and three children—ages 12, 15 and 18—in attendance.

“I wish Joe could be there to see it too, but I know he’ll be there in his own way,” she said. “He was so excited for me when I found the program. He was right. I love what I do now.”

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