ONC Staff Profiles – Carmen Smiley

Carmen Smiley | June 7, 2022

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. 

Name: Carmen Smiley
ONC Office: Office of Technology, Standards Division
Title: IT Specialist

How does your division/office fit into ONC?

The Standards Division acts as the primary resource for standards analysis, development, advancement, and technical assistance for ONC, federal and state partners, and other stakeholders across the health care industry.

Tell us about your work at ONC.

I lead and coordinate projects involving patient matching and pharmacy interoperability. My work connects me with all sorts of people – from my ONC colleagues to federal partners to various industry stakeholders – providing them with guidance, technical assistance, and research. I’m also the staff lead for Project US@, a new, industry-led “tech spec” that could be used across industry for representing patient addresses. You may have recently seen me presenting to the HITAC Interoperability Standards Workgroup, the USCDI Workgroup, or the FAST Identity & Matching Tiger Team.

What has led you to your career here at ONC?

While working at the Indian Health Service and Children’s National Hospital in DC, my colleagues and I faced significant challenges with health IT adoption, implementation, maintenance, analysis, reporting, and interoperability. At the same time, I saw endless possibilities in what the future could look like for health data, patient matching and record linkage, and other areas. Although I found my work rewarding, I actively sought out opportunities to help address these challenge and devise solutions to advance the industry as a whole. When I applied to my current position, it was my 200th application for a federal job. I leverage that same perseverance in my work every day.

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

I’m trained in anthropology, research, and data science, so I have a unique ability to see challenges and opportunities from a non-technical and technical viewpoint. I’m also hyper analytical, imaginative, independent, curious, and I love problem solving. I have over 26 years of experience in healthcare and have lived and worked on four continents.

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

I’ve had several accomplishments over the years at ONC that I am proud of, but one recent accomplishment is the release of the Project US@ Technical Specification and Companion Guide in January 2022. The greatest feat of Project US@ wasn’t necessarily the development and publication of the specification and guide, but the ability to coalesce and achieve consensus among a wide range of stakeholders on how to capture and represent addresses across the industry.

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

Some of the best parts of working for ONC is the autonomy I have over my work and the ability to continually learn.

How would you characterize ONC’s success?

I think ONC’s success may be in the positive impact our work has had on federal agencies and the industry as they work toward standards adoption and interoperability.

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

One project that I am working on is USCDI as the Patient Demographics Data Class Lead. The USCDI is a standardized set of health data classes and elements for nationwide interoperable health exchange. Much of my work on USCDI involves engaging stakeholders, adjudicating public comments, conducting research, and working to add new, high-value data elements to support patient matching and record linkage, identity integrity, and equity. Accurate patient matching is a foundational requirement for nationwide interoperability.

How does ONC support your professional development?

I’ve had several opportunities over the years to take on new projects in areas completely unfamiliar to me, lending opportunities to develop relationships with a variety of people and organizations, see health IT from different perspectives, gain knowledge and skills, and guide federal partners and other industry stakeholders.

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

The ONC core value that may be most often applied in practice every day is teamwork. We work together on a number of problems that are very complex and therefore rely on a multidisciplinary team to solve.  We reach our full potential when we work together, relying on our individual strengths to achieve our collective best.

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

The opportunity to lead meaningful work and potential to have national impact.