Roseann Spitznagel ’95 and Jim Wetzel ’01 help start an internship in health-care IT at the Cleveland Clinic
By Rachel Halle ’13
Roseann Spitznagel ’95 and Jim Wetzel ’01 haven’t forgotten their John Carroll roots. The alumni, who work at the Cleveland Clinic, have been instrumental in starting a new internship program in the mathematics and computer science department. They’ve helped develop a relationship between the University and the clinic to allow students to get a head start on health-care information technology.
The program includes a track within the computer science major that focuses specifically on health-care information technology courses, which gives one or two students a chance at an internship at the clinic. This past spring, Kathryn Ek ’12 was the first intern in the program.
“The skills and theories I learned in my classes were highlighted in a real-world environment, and I was able to have this realization before I graduated from college,” says Ek, who’s now employed at Dwellworks in Cleveland as an IT analyst.
Dwellworks provides a suite of services to the relocation, real-estate, and mortgage-lending industries.
The clinic internship was the brainchild of Spitznagel and her colleagues. She started talking to people at Carroll, where her husband, James Spitznagel ’93, and father-in-law, Carl Spitznagel, Ph.D., work. Soon after, Dan Palmer, Ph.D., a professor in the mathematics and computer science department, began preparing material to teach in the newly developed classes.
“There’s a gap between what’s learned in college and the day-to-day needs at the clinic,” Wetzel says. “The skills and theories taught in information technology left holes when it came to preparing students for a career in health-care IT. The purpose of the program is to prepare students specifically for health-care information technology.”
Language used in the health-care field is so different from a non-health-care IT profession that having students and prospective employees know the language gives them a competitive edge. Knowing the terminology prevents new hires from having to learn on the job and employers from having to explain all the specifics.
Health care is one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S. economy, and because the clinic is so close to the University, it made perfect sense to start such a program at Carroll.
“It keeps jobs in the area,” Palmer says.
Cleveland has a thriving health-care market, and during a time when many students and professionals are worrying about a steady job, the health-care field can provide an opportunity for those in IT, Spitznagel says.
Sometimes it’s difficult to hire when people have similar qualifications, but if one person has the experience and background this internship provides, Spitznagel would choose the person with that experience. Having interns to help with the projects on their plate is immensely helpful, Wetzel says.
Wetzel is the primary contact between the clinic, Ek, and Palmer – the in-place mentor. Ek was given a few projects to choose from to focus on for the duration of the internship. Wetzel mentored her through working with databases and other programs from day to day without being overbearing, which gave Ek the chance to experience how different health-care IT is.
The program continues to evolve and improve. Now that Ek has completed an internship, Palmer has a better idea of what to teach in his classes, and Spitznagel and Wetzel understand the workload better.
As for the future of the program, Spitznagel would like to have two interns – one at a senior level and one at a junior level so they can train and help each other. The interns wouldn’t necessarily have to be a junior or senior, just in the health-care information technology track that the school now offers. Now that the program is under way, those involved hope its success will continue. JCU
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