Main Content:
Patti Firouzan teaching a class

Getting accepted into the Health Informatics program here at the University of Pittsburgh came with plenty of different emotions: Excitement and happiness, followed by a slight amount of fear of the unknown. I spent hours researching the field of health informatics, the curriculum and the professors, just to get a feel for how my next two years would play out. Nothing could have prepared me for such an approachable and professional community of people that greeted me when I walked through those SHRS doors.

For the first time at Pitt, I was surrounded by a class of just 25 other people all wanting to learn about the same thing. I started my year with a class called Health Information and the Health Care System, taught by an outstanding professor, Patricia Anania Firouzan. Her excitement radiated throughout the class, putting everyone there that much more at ease. All the anxiety I felt nearly melted away after she introduced herself explaining that she would like us to call her “Patti”. This small gesture meant everything and continues to make me feel supported through our email exchanges and advisor meetings throughout my time in the program. 

Right from that first course, I was immersed in a new level of learning. I had always heard of the term HIPAA, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, while studying as an underclassman. However, I really didn’t know there was so much more to the privacy of patients within the health care system. Patti set up the course in what I would consider the most valuable way of learning: We began by focusing on the big picture laws and ethics regarding health care. The entirety of the class would eventually build off these initial concepts, and Patti made sure that we all understood the importance of the fundamentals. This progressive teaching approach allowed me and my classmates to draw from the knowledge we had already obtained to aid in the new concepts that were related.  

We were then introduced to the inner workings of, arguably, the most vital database within the field of health informatics, the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Patti walked us through tutorials, providing us with all the resources necessary for us to absorb the importance of the EHR in our future fields. This introduction preceded a multitude of helpful databases and instructions on how to use them to our benefit. We worked on case studies that she provided, allowing us to gain insight into the real world use of EHRs. School is all about learning, but Patti also pushed us to apply that knowledge and work through problems to find solutions. The words “data management” and “analytics” seem intimidating when you have no previous experience, however, this class showed me that there are fun aspects of this work and learning about something you love should never feel too scary.  

In addition to being a great educator, Patti has this wonderful ability to make all her students feel heard and supported. The HI program taught me that you do not have to be tentative to reach out to your professors, because they are all rooting for you in your endeavors. The communication skills that the instructors possess create a welcoming environment in which you never feel lost. If you're in Pitt HI, your inbox will never be empty, rather filled with professors sending invites to different info session panels, or Patti - who is also the clinical education coordinator - posting excellent job opportunities that fit the program perfectly. These actions might seem small, but as a college student, it is difficult to find your path on your own and Pitt’s Health Information Management Department has that desire to help you succeed in whatever you strive for.  

Although a bit daunting, the small size of this program turned out to be its greatest strength for me, providing a close-knit community where you can bounce ideas off your peers and work with them on everything, even outside of school. The support ranged from working together on group projects to congratulating each other on our accomplishments in extracurriculars or new internship positions. I entered this program without any expectations and knowing no one. Now, I’m in my second semester, working alongside my professors on the HI social media platforms and loving learning brand new concepts with a great group of students.  


Grace Rousseau

Written by: Grace Rousseau 
Student, BSHI Class of 2023