From left to right: Marya Ford, Assistant Vice President for Clinical Applications at MedStar Health; Karla Arzola, IT Director at Swedish Medical Center; Sarah Richardson, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital and Information Officer at Tivity Health; and Barbara Franta, Executive Director of Digital Applications and Information Solutions at UChicago Medicine. Photo by Teta Alim
Karla Arzola, IT director of the Colorado-based Swedish Medical Center (part of HCA Healthcare’s HealthONE), highlighted her journey, starting from when she was born and raised in Mexico, and stressed the importance of finding a mentor and seizing opportunities.
Sarah Richardson, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer at wellness solutions company Tivity Health, spoke about moving multiple times for her career, taking big leaps of faith and failing, and how remote work options can help working caregivers. She said her company’s full embrace of remote work can still be engaging and supportive. In fact, she said, four of the five members of the executive IT team are women.
“It’s the art of the possible that exists inside of every single one of us,” Richardson said, urging the room to embrace moving for career advancement.
Barbara Franta, executive director of digital applications and information solutions at UChicago Medicine, also emphasized risk-taking: “We only grow when things are uncomfortable.”
Franta started her healthcare career more than 30 years ago in patient care services, moved to revenue cycle and then pivoted to IT eight years ago. She said she understood that many women couldn’t take risks because of family obligations, financial insecurity or a lack of self-confidence. It may take a lot of work, Franta said, but it’s important for women to crystalize a vision for their careers.
“What do you want? What moves you at your core?” she said. “Everything else falls off to the side. And at that point, your caterpillar gets to grow into a beautiful butterfly.”
EXPLORE: What is femtech, and how is it evolving in healthcare?
‘Find Yourself a Village of Mentors’
At the session titled “Women in Healthcare IT: Cultivating Women to Lean into Healthcare IT Leadership,” the four panelists spoke about the changes in the industry, balancing professional and personal lives, and the importance of mentorship.
Tanya Townsend, senior vice president and CIO at New Orleans-based LCMC Health, highlighted how much healthcare IT is embraced at the executive table now. She reports directly to the CEO of her organization, which has not always been the case.
MEDITECH Executive Vice President and COO Helen Waters agreed: “IT has moved from the back office function of nobody knowing what it did and being in the basement to being a strategic enabler of transformation, growth and strategy formalization, and that’s a massive change.”
Speaking from a business perspective, Vandna Pandita, vice president of HEDIS Strategy and Analytics at payer AmeriHealth Caritas, added, “What’s changed for me is the fact that now my IT partners and I, on the business side, can sit at the table and have those conversations and understand where the strategy is, what we need to do and how we can accomplish it together.”