Program Director Spotlight: Matt Kaszubinski, Health Informatics Program

Matt Kaszubinski, Program Director Health Informatics ProgramMatt Kaszubinski is the Program Director for the Graduate Programs in Health Informatics and the new Master’s in Healthcare Administration here at UNE Online.

Read on for his plan to keep students’ skills fresh, and what he is excited about for the future in the field of health informatics.

Can you tell me a little about your background and what drew you to teaching at UNE Online?

I actually started in medicine in a variety of different ways and in several different environments. As a Navy Hospital Corpsman for several years, I worked in shipboard medicine, and then I was moved over to a hospital on the west coast, and then to a shipyard, where I mostly worked in an industrial-medicine type of environment. Then I transitioned into a field combat trauma role with the Marine Corps Infantry. I got out of the Navy in 2007, switching over into the civilian world, going to work with the VA healthcare system in Syracuse, New York, in an administrative role.

After a time at the VA, a combination of a grad school scholarships and new job opportunities led to things falling into place for a move to Maine. A new house fell right into place, too. Once in Maine, I started work at York County Community College.

It was 2010, just as they were at the very beginning of building a brand new Medical Assisting degree program. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to be on the ground floor of building an entire program and being given the freedom to lead this program in whatever direction we felt was right. It was, of course, also daunting to be responsible for building every single piece of the program from scratch. In the end, a simple degree turned into an entire department with multiple degrees. When I learned about the position at UNE, I decided to leave this new and thriving department to become the Program Director for the Graduate Programs in Health Informatics here at UNE Online.

So you have built programs from scratch before?

Essentially, yes. There were only two classes built when I started at YCCC, and the rest was built under my leadership. It’s been a somewhat complicated journey, but I’ve found that I learned a great deal while building that program. Some lessons came easy, some were learned the hard way – but I’ve been able to transfer a lot of those key learnings into this program, and the new MHA (Master of Healthcare Administration) program that is also available for students to join or learn more about.

Learn More: Master of Healthcare Administration at UNE

My background is nontraditional, similar to a lot of our students’ backgrounds. Our students come from very diverse situations and professional backgrounds which lends to what makes our program as unique as it is. Each class offers different health perspectives. Some students enter health through the nursing profession and then discover how widespread technology is across the job and, consequently, enter into informatics. Others start in the technology/computer space and recognize the opportunity of bringing those skills to healthcare offers them. Each side of the professional profile is well served with this program since it bridges the clinical and technical side of the field.

Read more: Ruthie Pearlman, Health Informatics student, uses health data as a tool for improving women’s health

We also have students and graduates who have dedicated 20-30 years of their professional life to the field and are eager to implement the changes they know can help solve challenges facing healthcare. They’re drawn to putting what they’ve learned to use to help patients lead healthier lives.

This degree strengthens prior field learning with new, modern skills that make continued career success possible. Whether that’s in a specific capacity of health data or administration or something broader.

There is a wide range of potential careers in health informatics, which can be overwhelming. What advice do you give people that are trying to figure out how to translate their interests into a health informatics career?

Chances are careers that align with their interests already exist in the healthcare world. They just might not realize it. There’s a misconception about the field – as soon as you say “healthcare,” it’s human nature to immediately think of a hospital setting and then stop there. In reality, there’s more to the field of health informatics than that.

Health informatics applications reach many segments of healthcare from the clinical (think hospitals) to the purely administrative (think insurance company consulting) and all that lives in between. The work made possible with health informatics helps:

  • Turn data in usable, everyday patient tools that lead to healthier living with the creation of the HITECH act thatenforces patients have digital access to protected health information & records
  • Provide alternative care methods and treatments like, telemedicine, for those in rural communities
  • Enact policy and federal regulations to ensure patient information is secure and protected
  • To build modern, artificially intelligent devices that provide care in the absence of a health professional due to increasing physician caseloads

Skills become outdated within five years. What steps do you take so this Health Informatics program remains relevant in the field?

We teach more than technical skills. Much emphasis is placed on critical thinking and understanding theory behind the skills. Even when I taught clinical skills, well over half of my curricula was the theory and the understanding of why things are happening. Knowing the cause of something is far more valuable than following a set of instructions.

If you are purely following instructions and it doesn’t go according to plan, you have no way of adapting. You’re done. Understanding why things are happening, and how things got to that point allows someone to intelligently adapt and improvise.

What we are doing is building an adaptive skill set within a framework of critical thinking. We teach students to figure out a way to take the skills that they do have and use them appropriately.

You just take your concepts and your clinical skills, move them over into either informatics or administration, you’re still building an adaptive skill set. We don’t want robots. That doesn’t work.

For every issue, there’s the textbook version of events where everything works perfectly. And there’s the lab, where you are working in a controlled environment. And then you have the real world – and those three things are never the same thing. Right? You might get two but never all three. So you have to be able to adapt.

So you’re teaching a set of adaptive skills that serve you in any environment, even if it’s an extremely complicated situation?

Right. Even if you’re analyzing data sets using software, you still have to have a general idea and understand the ‘why and how’ of what’s happening. You need to be able to spot whether your results are incorrect.

And if you get strange results, or if you observe a trend that just doesn’t sit right or doesn’t seem as if it’s plausible, that’s because you have that theory base, that critical thinking. If you don’t have that, you just get the answer – you don’t get the insight, and that has limited usefulness.

What are you excited about for the future of this program?

It’s a growing field, and it’s only going to get bigger. As this college grows, we are going to be able offer more programs that work interprofessionally.

And as a healthcare-centric university, UNE is uniquely poised in the health informatics arena. That’s exciting!



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