One of the best things about my job is that I’m constantly learning — not just about technologies or policies, but about the people who make health IT such an interesting field. No matter how much you read or hear about a particular person, you have no idea what he or she is going to be like until you actually talk to that person yourself. Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking with Scott Wallace, who recently stepped down after serving as president and CEO of the National Alliance for Health Information Technology for five years. When I asked him why, I was surprised by his response. He said it was time for a new challenge. He had spent half a decade steering the health IT industry through critical years of transition and rapid growth. And now that it had reached a point where it was — at least somewhat — manageable, it was time for him to step out of the confines of a single-issue organization and find a position that would better enable him to address broader issues around the restructuring of healthcare.
The surprising part was that after our discussion, I discovered a parallel between his career and mine. Five years ago, while he was beginning his term at NAHIT, I was in the infant stages of my foray into healthcare IT as a freelance writer. But while he was at the forefront of the field, tackling major issues like the restoration of the New Orleans healthcare system and getting so deeply involved that he risked his personal health, I was in the wading pool, “dabbling” in health IT reporting while also exploring other arenas like medical writing.
Wallace knew that healthcare IT was an exhausting but extremely fulfilling venture, so he gave it his all, then when he had accomplished what he set out to do, he developed a new game plan. I, on the other hand, also started to sense that healthcare IT was an exhausting but extremely fulfilling venture and one that I felt merited my full attention, so I decided to get more involved and I sought out a new career path at HCI. Wallace left because he had done his job in health IT and wanted to see what else he could do; I wanted to see what I could do in health IT without the other ventures. It’s only been about 10 weeks, but I have no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision, and I hope Wallace feels the same way down the road. I have a feeling that he will.