Connecting Data Points in Healthcare Management: Juan Nañez

Connecting Data Points in Healthcare Management: Juan Nañez
Juan Nañez, MPH Healthcare Management student.

When Juan Nañez was searching for a graduate degree, he didn’t expect to find his passion. As he considered a degree in nursing informatics, he came across the MPH in Healthcare Management at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso. Initially, he thought it would provide a good opportunity to learn more about how to grow businesses within a healthcare environment, but what he found was much more transformative. “I really like organizational development, how to create culture, and how to work with others to build their skill sets. This degree has positioned me to continue growing and to learn more about something I didn't realize had its own career path. I love operations,” Nañez said.  

Nañez is the director of programs for the Paso del Norte Health Information Exchange (PHIX) and will be graduating with the first cohort of the MPH in Healthcare Management executive-style program in El Paso this May. He has a background in nursing, but most of his experience comes from working with healthcare data in the nonprofit space. PHIX facilitates data sharing between healthcare providers, public health entities, and social service organizations in the El Paso region to support patient care.   

“My background in nursing has been really helpful for my current job, giving me a clinical perspective for health information technology design and interpretation,” he shared. “A lot of the time, the people that build health data systems are excellent programmers but don't have as much of a clinical perspective on user functionality or health data interpretation.” Currently, Nañez collaborates with stakeholders to identify, design, and implement health information technology (HIT) solutions to improve community health. He also guides daily operations by managing staff, HIT system maintenance, and partner relationships.

PHIX is also a nonprofit, which presents its own challenges. Nañez expressed that he feels that their work inhabits a different world as a nonprofit than some of the other parts of healthcare. This further propelled his decision to pursue the MPH in Healthcare Management. “I thought it would be great to gain a perspective of how each of the different sectors of healthcare work. I know I have a good understanding of the nonprofit space, but getting to learn about the payer systems, the hospitals, the outpatient clinics, and how they run has been really helpful, especially for health information technology design and adaptation.”  

Nañez was also interested in the program to learn how people are transforming data into actionable policy and direct patient care interventions. “One of the things I didn't expect going into the program was the opportunity to listen to different key leaders and role models in the healthcare community in El Paso,” he said. “The number of healthcare executives coming in with many, many years of experience to give us their perspective was super helpful. I think it's great to hear from these individuals about how they interpret what we're reading and how they put it into practice.” 

Through the program’s cohort format, Nañez is also working closely with professionals in other healthcare ecosystem areas, which has provided support to his projects beyond the classroom. “I was surprised by how much we have come to rely on each other, in a good way,” Nañez said.  

One of these projects was his practicum, where Nañez worked with a local advocacy group to develop a strategic plan for neighboring Doña Ana County. Through data analysis, discussions with stakeholders, and feedback from constituents, he learned a lot about how local governments prioritize resources and evaluate the healthcare needs of their communities.  

“It was interesting to see people's perspectives on how healthcare is more than just the nuances of direct healthcare services,” he said. “We looked at the nonmedical drivers of health and how you should improve food resources, roads, education, housing, and all sorts of other issues that we see out in the community, to improve overall health.” Through his project, he was able to drive conversations with county commissioners about the community's goals and challenges to health so they could focus on the strategic steps to address those needs.

Considering the growth of his professional network and the opportunity to develop practical experience, the MPH in Healthcare Management has been a worthy return on the investment for Nañez. “It’s very affordable and you can do it. You just have to manage your time,” said Nañez. Reflecting on the cost of the prorgram, Nañez shared, “I paid out of pocket for the MPH semester by semester, and I don't think I would have been able to do that with any other program.” 

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