BY Amanda Sotelo
It all started at Texas State Technical College for Linda Gonzalez, director of Health Information Management at Valley Baptist Medical Center, where she has been for three decades.
The Harlingen native graduated with an associate degree in 1993 from TSTC’s Health Information Technology program.
“If not for TSTC, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” she said. “To move up the ladder I needed a degree and I am thankful that TSTC gave me that opportunity.”
Gonzalez’s first experience in the health information and medical records field started in high school when she worked for a local doctor’s office. After high school she continued working there and tried university life.
“A four-year university wasn’t for me at the time. I was fresh out of high school and needed a break,” she said. “Plus I was really enjoying my work.
In 1987, while still working full-time for the doctor, she joined the Valley Baptist Medical Center family as a part-time birth certificate clerk. She eventually moved up to assembly and analysis clerk and healthcare statistics clerk.
“By this time I knew I wanted to make this my career and I wanted the chance to become a manager or director, so I knew what I had to do,” she said.
That’s when she enrolled at TSTC after hearing about the program from her then colleague Ana Gonzales. Gonzalez is now a Health Information Technology instructor at TSTC.
“I would go to work at 3 a.m. every morning so I could complete my work by the time I would leave for school,” she said. “Was it hard? Yes, I was always sleepy and would find myself dozing off in class, but so worth it.”
Immediately after receiving her associate degree she applied for and appointed to a manager position overseeing the statistic clerks, beginning the next journey on her career path.
Gonzalez went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix in Healthcare Administration to move up as director at Valley Baptist.
The 52-year-old now oversees a staff of 51 employees, 24 of which are also TSTC graduates, and she sits on the TSTC Health Information Technology advisory board, providing updates and recommendations to program instructors.
“TSTC graduates have always been top picks for Valley Baptist,” said Gonzalez. “We recognize their skills and the fact that they come on board ready to hit the ground running.”
Gonzalez added that over the 30 years she has been at Valley Baptist their support for TSTC students and graduates has never faltered, even allowing students to complete their clinical rotations at both Valley Baptist locations in Harlingen and Brownsville.
“I’m here to support and to encourage all of them (students) to be the best they can be and to continue pursuing specializations in their field,” she said. “They all have so much potential.”
Students who pursue an associate degree in Health Information Technology will learn the skills needed to manage health information across computerized systems and its secure exchange between consumers, providers, government entities and insurers and will also be trained in billing and coding.
TSTC’s program is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIM), allowing TSTC graduates to take the national exam needed to obtain the credentials of a Registered Health Information Technician improving career possibilities and increasing salaries.
Health Information Technology is offered at TSTC’s Harlingen campus and is also offered 100 percent online.
Registration for Summer and Fall 2018 begins April 2.
For more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.