My journey toward becoming a hospital CIO

The road to a new role at 'the hospital Steve Jobs would have built'
By Aaron Miri
10:12 AM
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I have always wanted to be a conductor of a symphony.  As a young kid, I would sit listening to a beautiful symphonic performance, mimicking what I thought a conductor would be doing to keep the music going. Fast forward quite a few years, and I am now a conductor of an IT symphony that plays out at ten times the normal speed.

My journey toward becoming a hospital chief information officer starts as a young kid who watched both of his immigrant parents work incredibly hard and long hours to put food on the table and a roof over my head.

My father was the hard-working civil engineer who came to this country not knowing how to speak English and knew nothing except that hard work would eventually bless his family with a better life. My beautiful mother was the social science master who started as a nurse and eventually chose to do more with social work and children's health. It was they who taught me that life is what you make of it and my dad who taught me my life catch phrase: "No pain, no gain."

I ended up getting decent grades in school and came to Texas for college on an engineering scholarship. Determined to do it on my own, I refused any help and decided to work full-time waiting tables and supporting myself in school. Soon enough, I found myself enjoying my computer programming classes more than building trusses and engineering bridges, and thus switched focus into the world of computers.

That's where my IT journey really starts to take shape.

My teachers took quick note of my eagerness and hunger to learn, and I landed a part-time job as a software developer for a local telecommunications company. It so happened that I had prior experience as an intern back home for a local telecom giant, so I had the edge in understanding what I was doing and why it was important for the business. This eventually panned out into a full-time job leading the software development team developing custom ERP solutions.

After graduation and many countless evenings spent looking for the missing semicolon in programming language purgatory, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at something bigger which led me into the world of project management.

I joined a local major hospital system which unbeknownst to me happened to be on the brink of massive growth. As a senior project manager, I was handed with challenge and opportunity to lead some of the most amazing clinical technology installations, multiple hospital construction projects, merger and acquisition activities, and beyond. The department was led by a stellar CIO who I observed and helped me decide that my path was to become a healthcare CIO.

As I earned my stripes over the years, I ended up progressing through many roles and eventually managing the IT operations department. I learned some outstanding lessons in healthcare and in life during that journey. The most important of which being to always volunteer for whatever opportunities present themselves to you.

I joined a local community rotary club and there met many lifelong mentors who were always a phone call away for advice. Being a glutton for personal punishment, I also ended up going back to school to finish my MBA and subsequently graduated with full honors. Somehow, I also ended up meeting and marrying the love of my life and having two beautiful children.

Quite some time later, I decided to stretch my knowledge left to try my hand at pediatrics with two different award-winning hospital systems in the roles as an IT director and as a chief technology officer. It's at both of those hospitals that I learned another major lesson: Never stop learning.

I attended and graduated from the CHIME CIO boot camp and passed my CHCIO certification. I also volunteered extensively with HIMSS on the public policy front, with multiple CHIME committees, with the Office of the National Coordinator, and on the speaking circuit discussing healthcare IT security.  

Truly, I have been blessed to work closely with three separately amazing CIOs, all of whom took me under their wing and to this day I keep in contact with as lifelong mentors. As yet another important lesson – always invest in your team and freely feed those who are hungry to learn and grow.

When you combine a results-driven mindset, a thirst for learning, and you continuously grow and elevate your teams; it eventually could equate into that fateful phone call offering a CIO opportunity and the chance to do what you set your heart on.

I am now a CIO for a brand new and technologically cutting-edge acute care hospital, Walnut Hill Medical Center in Dallas.

The hospital doors opened in April 2014 and Forbes Magazine immediately heralded it as "the hospital Steve Jobs would have built." When the call came to lead this amazing IT team, I could just hear those fateful words from my dad as my eight-year-old self mimicked the symphony orchestra conductor role: "Son, just remember, no pain, no gain."