CHIMA congratulates the winner of the 2023 Kathy Marcotte Award, Sherry Ostapovich, CHIM. Sherry has been in the health information profession for over 25 years and has been a subject matter expert for online curriculum writing and development. She has also participated in curriculum, examination, and prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) development and revision. Sherry currently teaches Health Information Analysis (to Year 1 and 2 students) and Clinical Coding (to Year 1 and 2 students) at SaskPolytech.
Congratulations on winning the Kathy Marcotte Award, Sherry! Can you tell us how you felt when you received the news and what this award potentially means for your career?
Thank you so much for selecting me as the successful candidate for this very special award. This award has a very special meaning to me, as I knew Kathy Marcotte from working in the health region. Kathy was involved with the transition from ICD-9-CM and the rollout of ICD-10-CA and CCI in 2001, and I was one who benefited from her knowledge, love of coding, dedication, and skills in the new coding era. I was very honoured when I found out I was being nominated by my HIM program team at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. My love for coding shines through my current work and when I’m teaching. I honestly have never won anything of this significance before, and I was over the moon to win this award! Thank you.
Please talk to us about your journey in health information. Can you share any defining moments in your career and some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Can you believe that I learned about this profession when I was 16 years old? My aunt and uncle worked in a hospital in Vulcan, Alberta, where I had the opportunity to work in the admitting and health record departments to learn about the field. I was introduced to all departments and what each person did in their respective profession. Health records caught my eye, and I was instantly intrigued. I came home with my own set of ICD-9-CM coding books (the start of my love for coding) and applied to the Health Record Technology program in Regina, Saskatchewan, at SIAST, Wascana Campus. My first coding job was in Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the McKellar General Hospital, which has been closed for many years now. I knew I wanted to pursue this type of work back home in Saskatchewan.
As I progressed through my career, doors opened for new opportunities. From six years of ICD-9-CM coding, I went on to eight years of data analysis, creating tables and graphs. It was exciting to see the results and use of coding in decision-making. Moving into project management in the early 2000s was a career highlight for me: I worked with a group of talented professionals implementing new systems and software and was involved in the building of the databases, testing of the interfacing systems, creation of manuals, and training of new staff. This experience prepared me for my current endeavour—teaching in the HIM program and mentoring our future HIMs.
A lesson I’ve learned is, “Don’t be afraid to try something new. You just never know where the ‘new’ might take you and the doors of opportunity that you may find to explore.”
What would you say is on the horizon for the health information profession and why?
On the horizon for the HIM profession is the progression and transition from paper to fully electronic patient records and the new roles that we will have because of this. For example, with the automation of environments, electronic software can scan electronic documents to support computer-assisted coding. This will transform the coder’s role to that of an auditor and expert reviewer of the final code set selection. This is an exciting new adventure awaiting our profession.
Finally, what’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in the next five to ten years of your career?
As for future endeavours, I am not sure right now. I guess I am wondering what new opportunities might come knocking on my door for me to explore.
About the Kathy Marcotte Award
The Kathy Marcotte Award is a legacy award given in the name of Kathy Marcotte. Nominations open in winter for the previous year, and the winner is determined through the Saskatchewan chapter selection committee. The winner receives a $250.00 cheque on behalf of CHIMA and a free registration to the next Saskatchewan chapter in-person event.
Kathy Marcotte was a vital member of Saskatchewan’s HIM profession until her passing in 2011. Among many of Kathy’s achievements was her outstanding leadership in the roll-out of ICD-10-CA and CCI in Saskatoon in 2001. Kathy’s dedication to the HIM profession and pursuit of perfection made her an invaluable resource for HIM professionals in the province and country. She embodied all the qualities we look for in an outstanding member of our profession and further enriched every life she touched.