This week, HIMSS is celebrating National Health IT (NHIT) Week. One of the areas of focus this year under the overarching theme of “Supporting Healthy Communities” is “Accelerating Workforce Development – encouraging women in HIT and STEM careers.”
To that end, Sentry would like to take this opportunity to recognize the many women in our organization, from leadership to IT to customer service, who are an integral part of delivering the cutting-edge technology and world-class expertise that help our hospital and health system customers make strategic business decisions and serve patients around the country.
We sat down with Lisa Scholz, our head of industry relations, to hear more about her career in IT and the work she does at Sentry.
Sentry: Tell us about your career. How did you end up in HIT?
Lisa: I worked as a pharmacist for more than 20 years, first in retail and then in hospital. I also worked in the federal government with the Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA) as a government contractor and in advocacy and association management as the chief operating officer, chief pharmacy officer, and then senior vice president at 340B Health.
I didn’t come to health IT so much as health IT came to my career. I remember working in pharmacies before computers even existed. When insurance cards first came onto the scene in the 80s, we didn’t know what to do with them. They were plastic cards with raised numbers like credit cards and we would use the old credit card machines to make carbon copies for our records. We had no way of storing that much data at the time.
When computers entered the pharmacy scene, I really took on a leadership role and had the opportunity to teach new software to my colleagues. I was never intimidated by technology – I saw the potential for what it could do for healthcare and I ran with it. I’ve experienced healthcare before and after technology. Sentry ended up being the perfect place to use my tech skills, pharmacy experience and my 340B expertise.
Sentry: Can you share your experience as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
Lisa: Even though IT can be male-dominated, the percentage of women in pharmacy has been steadily increasing so I never felt like the odd woman out. In the mid-1960s, only eight percent of pharmacists were women, and today, that number is about 55 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. However, I did see an imbalance in that most of the women were younger pharmacists and most of the men were in management, and I thought, I’m going to be in management. I never thought twice about it.
As I moved up in my career, I was often the only woman on the leadership team. But I never saw myself as different from the men; I could roll with the punches, I could do just as much as they did, and they were very accepting of me. I was always the one to volunteer for projects and the male managers picked up on that, and they would say, “Lisa, I know you’re going to want to run with this one.”
The really nice thing about Sentry is that our CEO, Travis, and all our executives, value women in leadership and in all roles across the company. It’s very clear here that all perspectives are needed and welcomed to work toward our common goal.
Sentry: Why is it important for women to work in HIT? What would you say to those considering or coming into the field?
Lisa: Men and women approach problems and challenges differently. It’s not fair to say men only think with their heads or women only think with their hearts. It depends on the challenge and on the person; I think those stereotypes are what need to be broken. And we need that diversity of perspectives in the business world.
When I talk to younger kids, I try to suggest career paths they might not have thought of yet. I think when you’re very young, everyone sees the same career choices – doctor, teacher, lawyer, police officer. But as they get older and become exposed to more ideas, I like to ask them, “Do you like computers? Do you like technology?” And if they do, I try to share with them some career options there, especially in IT security and healthcare security. Because when we look at the future, we’re just going to have more and more digitized health information and we need innovative people coming into the field who know how to protect it.
Sometimes as women I think we are influenced by the other women in our lives – our moms, our aunts, our grandmothers. And we listen when they say things like, “I’m not good at math,” or, “I could never do that.” But those women didn’t have the technology that today’s generation will have, and they may not have the exposure, so we can’t be limited by what the women before us did.
I tell girls, give technology, math or science a chance. It’s okay if it turns out that you don’t find it interesting or if you don’t excel at it, but you should at least try. It’s a lot like sports – you never know what you’ll have an inherent talent for or love of until you try it. But at least you had the exposure.
Sentry: What is your role at Sentry, and what’s your favorite part of the job?
Lisa: My job is to be a communication bridge. I listen to the problems and challenges our customers are having, whether that’s about our 340B management and compliance technology or with understanding the program itself. I translate those challenges to our tech teams and people on our staff who can help the customers. I’m also the bridge the other way, taking very technical information from our teams and translating it to the customers who might not have the deep tech expertise.
I also focus on building and maintaining relationships from a government standpoint and with industry partners, to make sure Sentry continues to be an advocate for the 340B program and for our covered entities as they work to optimize that program to help meet their goals.
The best part of the job for me is acting as that translator and being part of that moment where stakeholders on all sides can say, “Ah! Now I get it!”