Gaining Skills, Confidence through Informatics

Written byHope Aucoin

“I'm glad I chose the informatics program at UL Lafayette because it had computer science, project management, cybersecurity and a lot of really interesting classes that I wouldn't have gotten through other programs.”

Ashley Brinkman holds up the UL Lafayette hand symbol during Spring 2024 commencement ceremonies. Brinkman earned her M.S. in Informatics online.
Ashley Brinkman
Graduation Year
MS in Informatics

Managing medical records, especially for a major health system, is no easy task.  

Health information manager Ashley Brinkman spends her days making sure patient records are complete, accurate, and secure, collaborating with information technology and business intelligence professionals to do so.

When she wanted to take the next step in her professional development, Brinkman looked for an opportunity that would allow her to bring those skillsets together.

“I always thought the IT side and business intelligence side were really fascinating,” says Brinkman. “So, when I was going for my master's, what interested me the most was informatics.”

Brinkman gained a range of applied computing knowledge, from network infrastructure to data analytics, through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s M.S. in Informatics online.

Health Information Management and Informatics

Originally from Mandeville, La., Brinkman earned her B.S. in Health Information Management from UL Lafayette before joining LCMC Health, a New Orleans-based nonprofit health system.

Brinkman says her team is responsible for medical records from nine area hospitals.  

“So, I'll make sure those records are kept private and that they're complete and accurate,” she says. “We also handle the release of information if patients want to request a copy of their medical records. We are also responsible for data integrity, so we make sure that the correct information is under the correct patient's medical record.”

Once Brinkman knew she wanted to better understand how to manage that data, returning to her alma mater seemed like a natural next step.  

She wasn’t disappointed.  

“I'm glad I chose the informatics program at UL Lafayette because it had computer science, project management, cybersecurity and a lot of really interesting classes that I wouldn't have gotten through other programs,” she says.  

Re-coding for Learning Online

From her first semester, Brinkman was already learning new languages and platforms, like Python, R Studio, and Tableau, while exploring existing and emerging technologies, like AI.  

But Brinkman says the real challenge was creating the right infrastructure for completing her graduate courses online. The key components for her model became planning, networking, and connecting with professors.  

“It was difficult,” she says. “I would plan out exactly when I was going to do my schoolwork to complete my assignments before they were due because I wanted to make sure I had enough time to ask them questions if I needed to.”

Brinkman says her professors set expectations for communication through their syllabi at the beginning of the semester.  

“I would make sure to read the syllabus so I could schedule office hours with them,” she says. “Every single one of them was more than happy to get on a phone call with me and work around my schedule to help me out.”

But sometimes bouncing ideas off other students was also valuable. Brinkman said she leveraged class discussion forums and group projects to create connections.

“I made a good friend, who was also HIM, and we were in almost every single class together so we would reach out to each other and encourage each other,” she says. “One of my project group members lived in my area, so we actually met up and had lunch. I found the relationships with the other students to be just as important as a relationship with the professors.”

Informatics Applications

With the knowledge and skills gained through the master’s in informatics program, Brinkman says she’s better able to work with cross-functional teams and has had the opportunity to join new projects.  

“When I work with IT now and they share their screen, I can understand what they're doing. And I can understand the limitations of what they can do in the system, so it's helped me to make the processes work better at my facility,” she says. “They actually started to implement an AI technology at my facility that can read the medical record and pull out information so a person doesn't have to sit there and read every single note in the chart. I was able to meet with the director over that area and talk to her about it. Because I have this experience, she wants to include me on the project.”

Additionally, Brinkman says earning her master’s degree has better positioned her for promotions and more technical roles within her organization.  

But the most immediate outcome is her own confidence.

"It was it was a lot, but it was so worth it,” she says. "I got a huge self-esteem boost after this because there were times I did not think I could do it, but I just kept pushing. And here I am. I've graduated!”

Upgrade your career through the M.S. in Informatics online program with concentrations in cybersecurity, data science, health informatics, and general informatics.  

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