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A Master’s Student Experience: An interview with Jacob Crump and Shilpy Sharma

Jacob Crump and Shilpy Sharma graduated from the University of Utah with a Masters in Biomedical Informatics in the Applied Clinical Informatics track. After graduation, Jacob and Shilpy have gone on to work for Interopion. Interopion focuses on empowering healthcare delivery through interoperable, EHR-Integrated solutions. They have shared their experiences as students and their current professional roles in an interview below :


Could you tell us a little bit about you? 

Jacob: I was born and raised in Utah. I received my bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in computer science from Utah State University (USU). I decided to come directly to the Master program with the Department of  Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at the University of Utah after receiving my undergrad from USU. A strong pull to this department was the chance to work with people like Prof. Brian Chapman and others. Once in the program, I started asking around for internships and was able to find a couple. In my second year, one internship turned into a fellowship program. I received a lot of experience in developing Healthcare applications through this internship. This internship is directly what allowed me to start my career. 

Shilpy: My career life has been full of ups and downs. I also graduated with a biology degree with the hopes of becoming a medical doctor. Before starting the Master program with the Department of Biomedical Informatics, I did a certification in computer programming. This allowed me to work as a computer programmer for two years. I was out of work for a while and was a stay at home mother. I started to look to get back into the workforce and decided to combine my passion for ethics and the health field. This is how I ended up in the Master program. I started to work with (professor) Samir Abdelrahman and got really interested in FHIR and how interoperability works. For part of my capstone program, I built FHIR compatible apps. This is what lead me to work at Interopion. With my experience in  DBMI, I was able to land this job.     


What company are you currently working with and what is your role with that company? 

Jacob: We work for Interopion, formally iSalus Solutions & MedAppTech. Our mission is to promote and facilitate interoperability across healthcare by means of different existing standards. Our co-founder was one of the creators of the SMART on FHIR and CDS Hooks technologies. We create many apps and maintain the HSPC Sandbox. Interopion is known as the experts in these fields. When I began with Interopion I soon became the lead on the backend of the HSPC Sandbox team. During this time I developed a lot of industry skills. This allowed me the opportunity to move to a mid engineer. Currently, I am creating a platform that will help facilitate and incorporates many of the different technologies talked about before.

Shilpy: Going along the same lines. Now that Jacob has moved up from the HSPC Sandbox, I now work as the lead on the backend of the HSPC Sandbox


How does your current career relate to your DBMI degree? 

Jacob: My degree relates to my career quite heavily. Most of the work that I do is software engineering. Software engineering is touched on in the biomedical informatics masters program. However, the knowledge needed in the field and that is covered in the master program (in class and through practicums) are: knowing and understanding different standards, terminologies, comprehending and applying different practices that are used in the medical field, medical and ethical standards, etc.

Shilpy: My main focus is on FHIR. Without the master program, I would not know what FHIR, CDS Hooks, SMART on FHIR are. This program allowed me to understand standards, how they work, and relate to the healthcare industry. I understand how standards and practices might change in the future. I understand the history of how health IT began. Whenever any of the terms, standards, or practices come up in my workplace I think to myself, I know about this. Many things are not foreign to Jacob and I. These topics are well thought and covered in the master program.  


What do you enjoy about your career? 

Jacob:  I'm a problem solver and I solve a lot of problems. I love it when I can identify and analyze a problem, grapple an idea to solve it and implement the solution. This is the first job where I really look forward to coming to work.

Shilpy: We work for a great company that has a great environment and treats us well. Jacob did cover a lot of what I was going to say. In addition, I thoroughly enjoy programming.  I'm working in the healthcare field and that is my passion.


What is/was your favorite part of the NTMS DBMI Degree? 

Jacob:  My favorite part was working on hands-on projects with professors. Classes were needed and necessary but the projects are where I got to create something. I saw my classroom-knowledge come to life.

Shilpy: For me, I really enjoyed the business seminars. This class taught us what the business side is doing in the real world in real-time. We got to make industry connections. We saw and heard what the industry is looking for.   

What is the typical workload for a NTMS student? (1st year and 2nd Year)?

Jacob:  The first or second semester was the hardest, but it gave me such a great foundation. The second-year was overall easier, but workload might have been higher with my fellowship. I could see how if I rearranged my schedule it might have made it less burdensome on my first semester. However, that being said the master degree was definitely doable.

Shilpy: I agree that it was not too hard. I was working part-time at the university throughout my program.  In my opinion, this program is in the mid-range for difficulty. I would say is to choose your classes wisely. The second semester for me with stats was a bit harder. 

Both: There was a substantial amount of reading. Although all were good readings.

Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

Jacob:  I would like to be a senior program engineer in the near future. This being in the next 5 years. After that, there are so many possible avenues that I would possibly like to go down. 

Shilpy: I would like to gain some more programming skills and be able to work on apps.I'm really interested in working on, and with, medical apps. One of the professors got me interested in the HIMSS society. I have been volunteering with HIMSS and that would be interested in continuing to do that type of work.