Introducing Kathleen Frawley: A Conversation with AHIMA’s Incoming President

Your new AHIMA president fights to prevent education drop-outs, used an IBM Selectric typewriter before an EHR, and can often be found in a Broadway theater. AHIMA, meet Kathleen A. Frawley.

Frawley, JD, MS, RHIA, FAHIMA, will begin her role as AHIMA’s president in January. Though Frawley has a long history with the association, her eyes are focused on the future.

This is already part of her role as a professor and chair of the health information technology program at DeVry University in North Brunswick, NJ. Below Frawley discusses her current HIM challenges and interests, and her presidential hopes for the coming year.

Describe your current duties. What are some of your ongoing projects?

Frawley: I am responsible for overall administration of the health IT program—teaching and mentoring adjunct faculty. I work closely with students, particularly in academic advising and preparation for certification, as well as working closely with career advisors in preparing students for graduation.

In addition I am working with DeVry’s Keller Graduate School of Management, doing presentations on issues in the healthcare industry. I recently did a presentation for them on mobile health.

Another of my projects is identifying and assisting students who are at risk of failing or dropping out of school. This is a special interest of mine and I did a presentation at the Assembly on Education and Faculty Development Institute a couple of years ago. A lot of HIM programs are struggling with this issue. I want to identify barriers that prevent students from being successful.

How did you come to be in your current position?

Frawley: After I left (working for) AHIMA I moved back to New Jersey and was a consultant. But I wanted to get off the road. I actually found this job on the AHIMA Career Assist website. I saw a posting for DeVry, which was starting its health IT program. I had taught previously in a baccalaureate program as adjunct faculty so I sent my resume in and got the job!

One thing I like about it is that I’m working with a lot of older adults who are career changers. I get to see them succeed. It’s great to make a difference in people’s lives.

What led you to a career in HIM? What keeps you engaged now?

Frawley: Before I was in HIM, I worked in a bakery making $1.25 an hour. In my freshman year of college (I was an English major) I got hired as a birth certificate clerk at St. Vincent’s in Manhattan. I realized it was something I liked doing. In my senior year the coding supervisor recommended that I get a credential. I attended a post-baccalaureate program. I had a management internship at Johns Hopkins, where my director was Lottie Cole, who was the first African-American president of the American Medical Record Association (before it became AHIMA). After that, I became assistant director at Hopkins and started volunteering for the association right out of school.

My special area of interest has been legal issues. I’ve been very interested in EHRs, PHRs, and patient portals in terms of privacy and security. I have had different roles, but I have to keep up so that I can make sure my students are prepared for their careers. It’s ever-changing—when I started, the only technology we had was an IBM Selectric typewriter and a Xerox copy machine! There are great opportunities now, but people need to continue to learn and increase their knowledge and skills to take advantage of them.

What has been your biggest challenge at work? How have you met this challenge?

Frawley: My biggest challenge is that my students graduate three times a year, and every semester I am looking for practicum sites for them. I am fortunate to have a lot of colleagues who have been supportive, but I always worry about getting my students placed and finding good opportunities for them. It’s a problem that a lot of educational programs are facing.

What are you most looking forward to doing during your term as AHIMA president? What would you like to accomplish?

Frawley: I want to continue the work that Bonnie Cassidy and Patty Sheridan have started on governance—working on the board governance structure and working with Kim Baldwin-Stried Reich, our new Speaker of the House. It’s really a team effort, working with the board and making sure the work continues on our governance structure and making sure the association is strong and meeting the need of our members—who are number one.

What do you do in your spare time—hobbies, interests, relaxation?

Frawley: I love reading. Music is very important to me and I like to go to the Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theater, and theater on Broadway. I recently took a cruise to Alaska—I like traveling.

Do you have a favorite convention memory from years past?

Frawley: Our annual meeting in 1996 was in Orlando, FL. I did a presentation on fraud and abuse and my parents came to the meeting and sat in the audience. They lived in Naples and drove up to convention, and they went to the president’s reception. I have a picture of my parents with Mickey Mouse. My father passed away three years ago, but my mother will be coming to the convention in Chicago.


**Follow the news and get insights from AHIMA’s 84th annual Convention and Exhibit being held October 1-3 in Chicago, IL. New articles covering the event will be posted daily. Look for special e-Alert announcements October 1-3 linking you to a full online edition of AHIMA Today, the on-site convention newspaper.

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