ONC Staff Feature: JaWanna L. Henry

Jawanna Henry | July 21, 2022

How does your division/office fit into ONC?

I work in OTECH’s Technical Strategy and Analysis Division, which is responsible for the technical strategy and analysis around ONC’s key health IT initiatives and policies through external and internal coordination and collaboration, standards development, real-world implementations, piloting technologies, conducting research, data analysis, and monitoring/reporting on health IT trends. 

My team (the Strategic Initiatives Branch) focuses on conducting real-world testing, piloting, and the implementation of standards and technologies in collaboration with other ONC divisions, federal agencies and industry stakeholders.

Tell us about some of the projects/initiatives that you lead. 

I primarily manage standards implementation projects. There is a lot that goes into making a standard a standard, and then helping make that standard something the industry will adopt. From determining value sets, correct terminology and testing a complete standard, in a testing environment, through real world implementation, I work with my colleagues across OTECH on these initiatives from inception to completion.

When I started in my branch, I managed projects that focused on implementing standards in real world settings. As I have grown in my position, I’ve progressed in my role throughout the standards development journey to become a subject matter expert in social determinants of health (SDOH), overseeing priority initiatives for ONC. 

What led you to your career here at ONC?

I applied for a summer intern position at HHS and was not aware that I could be selected for any office. To my surprise, I received an email from ONC requesting an interview with the evaluation team, because of my strong interest in evaluation work, and the rest is history! After a couple of years, I was presented with the opportunity to join the Strategic Initiatives Branch. I decided to join the team to become more engaged with stakeholders and put some of my evaluation skills into practice. 

What skills and strengths do you hold that add value to your work portfolio?

Although I am an introvert at heart, I really enjoy the collaboration and teamwork that is needed to support efforts in getting stakeholders to adopt and use standards. I also enjoy digging into the details and thinking strategically about solving a problem. When it concerns people’s health, that’s a bonus as that is the driver of my heart. The combination of these strengths supports my ability to develop new projects and support health IT collaboration per the role of ONC. 

What is a work-related accomplishment you’re most proud of? Why?

I am most proud when I can see a project through to completion. As a past AmeriCorps NCCC member, our goal is always to leave our mark. I have accomplished that through data briefs my colleagues and I published, the standards work for the Women’s Health Coordinated Registry Network project, and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) EHR integration work, to name a few.

When I started working on standards implementation efforts, some projects were months or years in, but I have been able to see them through to completion. Because of my efforts, there are now standards for collecting information as it relates to women’s health that is available for research. There are also standards and implementation lessons learned for sharing information related to prescription drug monitoring programs that prevents over prescribing of opioids. These are both because of the role I played among a team of people.

What would you say is the best part of working for ONC?

There is nothing better than understanding your role and being able to function in it. As a ONC-er, I see my role in supporting our coordination efforts to accomplish our mission. It is our responsibility to have a vision as it concerns health IT, and to share that vision and engage others on the journey to accomplishing it. Stakeholders are engaged often to give their input on various activities. I enjoy the process of engaging various sectors of health IT and working within the coordinating role of our office to bring fully developed activities back to the public.

How would you characterize ONC’s success?

ONC realizes success when we can take a step back and see how data collection efforts are helping to provide better care. It’s encouraging when we hear from care providers that the way data is captured and used makes their job more efficient and less burdensome or because data was collected and shared, people can receive services or benefits (food, transportation, better housing, etc.) that influence a person’s health, or when someone can say the doctor having access to their data saved their life.

What is a project you are currently working on and how does it fit into ONC’s mission?

One of the projects that I am working on is the FHIR-enabled Social and Health (aka FHIRed-SHIP): Integrating a closed-loop social services referral system into electronic health records in Federally Qualified Health Centers with the University of Texas at Austin. It is a pleasure to work as the project officer because I am passionate about social determinants of health and health equity. For this project, the team is developing a bi-directional referral platform to connect patients to the social services they need to help address SDOH and health equity to improve health outcomes.

How does ONC support your professional development?

ONC supports my professional development by providing career focused training opportunities. This gives me the freedom to take tech-focused trainings, leadership trainings, communication trainings or anything else of interest. In addition, ONC regularly offers interesting division-wide training opportunities.

What are the core values of ONC that are important to you? 

Having worked on the OTECH Ethos (character) team to develop OTECH values, I am going to go with teamwork, openness, and humility. Teamwork is important for the familiar reason there is no “I” in team. We need each other to be successful in the work we do. Openness is important for two reasons. Aside from being transparent and sharing information, it is imperative to be receptive to new creative ideas to solve the big problems. Both go hand and hand, as it is difficult trying to develop new ideas without relevant information. Lastly humility, which makes room for teamwork and openness. When we understand that we don’t know everything we can value others for the important role they play at getting the job done together.

Are there any additional benefits of working at ONC that you’d like to mention?

The people! There is a diverse group of people that work here, and it is always fun being able to engage and learn from each other. 

The Office of the National Coordinator is launching a new blog series featuring ONC staff called Inside ONC. Inside ONC will highlight an inclusive landscape of ONC staff members, a variety of positions, and the diverse backgrounds of those working within ONC.