Executive corner

An exciting but unplanned journey into healthcare

By Cherie Holmes-Henry

Blog    An exciting but unplanned journey into healthcare

I would like to tell you that my career in healthcare was well-planned, but that simply isn’t the case. I took a job, that job led to the next job, which in turn led to the one after that. With each new opportunity, my career evolved.

It’s been a wild, exciting journey. My enthusiasm for the healthcare industry and appreciation for the dedicated people who work in it remains as strong as ever. Here’s why.

Getting inspired by a mentor

Career options were few for women growing up in Texas in the late 1960s. One was expected to graduate high school, get married, and start a family. You could become a homemaker, teacher, or secretary. 

I became a secretary at Texas Rehabilitation Commission, a state agency. During that time, I went to college to become a licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor—my first experience with early stage care coordination, now a critical skill in population health management. 

I was the only female rehabilitation counselor employed by the agency at this time. My first boss, Marjorie Booker, lost a leg to osteomyelitis when she was very young. She overcame many challenges and became an expert in rehabilitation. A wonderful role model, she was instrumental in helping me launch my career. 

Finding leaders and leadership opportunities

My next job was with CIGNA. By this time, commercial insurance companies were beginning to adopt new models, such as HMOs and case management. I became a national sales manager—one of a few women in leadership roles within the company. 

Next, I joined a startup called Sweetwater Health Enterprise, an organization that specialized in physician credentialing. Note the acronym—SHE. The owner was a nurse and former CEO of a Chicago hospital. She had applied for CEO positions at hospitals in a different part of the country and was told, “We have a chief nursing officer position, but wouldn't want a woman as CEO.”  So, she founded her own company.

At SHE, I developed close relationships with a core group of strong women leaders. I remain close with them to this day. 

Arriving at NextGen Healthcare

My experience had prepared me well for the EHR revolution. I joined Healthvision, Inc.—one of the first companies to develop health information exchanges (HIEs) and patient web portals with secure messaging. I managed large integrated-delivery clients. 

NextGen Healthcare was one of our partner companies. In 2009, NextGen Healthcare hired me to develop its Grants Resource Center, which helped clients and prospective clients obtain funding for EHR adoption.

Realizing the power of technology in healthcare

By this time, my colleagues and I were realizing that IT would drive phenomenal change in healthcare. Our department helped clients who wanted to meet meaningful use requirements, improve interoperability, and participate in state HIEs. 

During this period, the federal government founded the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). My expertise in government affairs and policy development grew. 

I developed many contacts and friendships through relationships with stakeholder groups, including the Electronic Health Records Association (EHRA), a trade association of EHR companies under the auspices of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). I was recently named Chair of the EHRA.

Ready to network, proud to represent

The ability to network effectively is important to any career. Developing and maintaining close relationships within my industry has helped me understand the bigger picture—healthcare trends, the reasons behind what’s happening, and how the dots are connected. 

I am a road warrior, representing NextGen Healthcare at trade shows and industry meetings throughout the United States. I’ve been dubbed the company ambassador. It’s exciting and gratifying to help our clients navigate the always changing and often burdensome business of healthcare. I am proud to represent NextGen Healthcare across the industry. 

When advising young people starting out on their professional journeys, I tell them to be open to new opportunities. You never know where things are going to lead you.

Cherie Holmes-Henry

Vice President of Industry Affairs

Get in touch with Cherie