Healthcare and Computer Science

Jessica Jacques

Entering this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to web development. Prior to this class, my only knowledge of any form of web development was making websites on Weebly. I was unaware that people had careers in constructing the code necessary to complete various projects.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jessica Jacques. She was born in Manhattan and  relocated to the suburbs of New City, N.Y. during her elementary school years. She graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology Physiology. Working with computers was never really an interest of Jessica’s during her younger years. Jessica was a pre-med student and had plans to “go through the medical track.” She recalled that during her time in college there weren’t “too many blacks or Hispanics” in her program. After graduation, Jessica worked as a research student until she would soon find her career in a completely different field.

In February 2018, Jessica was hired as a software developer in the IT department for Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. She was able to incorporate her passion of working in the medical field with her new career as a software developer. The role of a software developer is to “create and maintain computer programs.” Her department is Healthcare IT and her major role is to create new and innovative ways to configure the software to fit the hospital’s needs. Jessica focuses on enhancement, solutioning, and troubleshooting. The hospital uses pre-developed code from their vendor Epic. Epic Systems is a healthcare software company that is privately owned. The hospital uses it to manage their medical records. The company is popular amongst the healthcare community because “hospitals that use its software hold medical records of 64% of patients in the United States and 2.5% of patients worldwide.” The coding language that Jessica primarily uses is MUMPS cache and its mostly utilized in hospitals and banks. She also uses SQL as a healthcare database. The program is used to “get a broader picture of medication adherence, patient demographics, where patients are, and population analysis.” It can inform hospitals about common diseases found in particular areas of a town. By working with the database, Jessica is able to provide the hospital with statistics, analytics, or whatever information the hospital deems as necessary. Her career allows her to continue to be involved in the medical community while keeping up with technology.

I wondered what factors led her to stray from the path of being a medical student to working behind-the-scenes with computers. After graduation, Jessica was a research student and was interested in applying for an open position as a research assistant at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. On resumes, you have to advertise yourself as the most qualified candidate. Jessica wasn’t very proficient in coding or computer software other than an elective computer science class she took in college. She listed that she had a computer background and immediately stood out to her employer. Mount Sinai hired her in 2011 and her career in IT began. Although she never had the intention of working in IT, Jessica enjoys her current career as a software developer and says she hasn’t left since she started. While diving into a new territory, she faced some challenges with some programs. She described Python to be the most difficult and its currently still a struggle at times. That program is her least favorite.

As we move forward into the future, being literate in technology is necessary. “I think definitely now the way technology is going, I think it’s important that people are at least exposed to minor coding and so on,” she said. “It’s just a good skill to have.” The starting salary for most programmers is around $79,000 and, although software developers will see a decline in job growth due to jobs being out-sourced, there is an expected 27 percent  growth in web developers over the next 10 years. She spoke out about the lack of women in the computer science field. College Board found that men outnumbered women by 4:1 on the AP computer science exam. In society, our technology is advancing at a fast pace, and there is a dire need for individuals that can maintain the programs used to perform tasks. At Montefiore, Jessica became part of a more diverse team, and she says that diversity plays a factor in a healthy work environment.

Overall, Jessica provided me with a view into a world I knew nothing about. I’ve always assumed that software and web development were mainly used in the communications field or for engineers who create robots and such. We fail to acknowledge the developers behind the technologies that improve our everyday lives. I also admire her ability to be successful in field that she didn’t expect to work in. Life may not always work the way we expect it to, but it’s up to us to adapt.

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