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The Catalyst

DHA graduate recognized global influences in healthcare IT

By Kevin Wiley
Center for Global Health

Dr. Andrienne Hunter 

Conventional wisdom holds that once a student graduates, the worst is over. No more long nights studying. No more Socratic or didactic learning. Spending inordinate amounts of time on research papers just for course credit is now a thing of the past.

Adrienne Hunter, DHA, the first graduate of the Doctor of Health Administration Information Systems program in the College of Health Professions, continues to take on similar challenges — not for herself, but for those who follow.

“For those pursuing goals in the health arena,” Hunter relayed to current and future students, “it is important to realize that the one team or hospital patient or population you impact ultimately impacts the world.”

Recognizing cultural shifts and disruption of industries is a gift only a few possess. These changes upend the norm, leaving in their wake transformational processes, especially in health care where there is a renewed focus on patient empowerment and engagement.

Hunter realized early on that a revolution in health care information technology was imminent and positioned herself to ride this wave. She completed a Master of Science in informatics at the University of Iowa after completing her undergraduate work in computer science at Spelman College, and has now fulfilled requirements for a DHA with an emphasis in Information Systems.

“My interests in the health arena ironically stemmed from the new-age shift in technology use that skyrocketed in the new millennium,” said Hunter. “Upon being welcomed by Y2K, the advancements of software applications and engineering fundamentals for health care become evident.”

The ebb and flow of innovation, attributable to people (not companies) who drive the tech market today in health care technology are not just limited to small, singular players and eminent scholars such as Vivek Murthy, M.D., Todd Park, and now Hunter.

Giants like Microsoft and Google have tried their hand at streamlining patient information through use of personal health records but have yet to make a universal impression on the industry. Hunter mentioned that health and health care are, at times, mutually exclusive and that trade associations and the large companies they represent have more emphasis on bottom lines and less on overall patient health.

“It wasn’t until I attended the International Health Rights Exchange in Cape Town, South Africa that I truly understood how health and health care are not one in the same,” remarked Hunter. “I researched the social implications impacting women with HIV/AIDS and came back only to want to merge my interests in health and technology, which is why I pursued the field of health informatics.”

Hunter has done extensive global health work compared to her many of her contemporaries. While working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she worked in Port–au–Prince, Haiti where she conducted informatics assessments for disease surveillance and electronic health records customizations.

Photo Provided
DHA graduate Dr. Adrienne Hunter, center, visits with a group in Cape Town, South Africa to explore health technology.

Hunter also assessed informatics capabilities at 14 different burn centers in four cities in India. A prototype for a national burn registry using mobile communications was developed, and data was presented at the prestigious National Academy of Burns Conference in New Delhi, India. Hunter also has traveled with her husband to volunteer and conduct health care research in Morocco, China, Guatemala, and South Africa. “I have been blessed to have the opportunity to impact the world through my work at the CDC,” Hunter said.

Not only has Hunter’s impact been felt abroad, she has been an inspiration for colleagues at MUSC—so much that she was nominated for the MUSC DHA Outstanding Student Award.

Hunter modestly considers herself to be “artistic, considerate and fluid,” but her classmates are more forthcoming in their descriptions, even without having met her.

Fellow classmate and friend, Courtney Schoessow, recounted a period in her doctoral program where life’s challenges became overwhelming and burdensome. “Just at the point when I thought I couldn’t continue my doctoral studies, I received an email from Adrienne Hunter,” said Schoessow. “Adrienne provided encouragement, support and friendship throughout our program to myself and other students.”

Hunter will continue to effect change in global communities, whether she is teaching or developing bioinformatics strategies for large global systems. Her ability to connect with her immediate environment and her passion borne from her work with marginalized populations has made her a recognizable presence at MUSC with classmates and up-and-coming students. “Find your place, your interests, where you can contribute and go towards it full–force, remembering your purpose,” she told them.

Although she has spent little time on campus, Hunter’s impact is felt strongly among students and administration.

“Working with Dr. Hunter was a real pleasure, in part because we shared a common interest – using technology to effectively deliver vital education that has the potential to improve health,” said Dusti Annan–Coultas, Ed.D., director of educational technology at CHP. “Adrienne has been a thoughtful, conscientious student, dedicated to self–improvement and improving the lives of others. She, and others like her, is the reason it is so meaningful to work in higher education and at MUSC.”



May 17, 2014



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