Lashawn Fofung found her way to finishing her degree later in life, and though she had a few stops-n-starts along the way, her determination won out.
Today she’s an associate software engineer at UnitedHealth Group, having graduated in May 2022 with a bachelor’s of interdisciplinary studies in health informatics degree. She has worked as a front-end and back-end developer on projects that utilized what she had learned in data analytics and project management.
Fofung calls herself an “older, nontraditional student” for which GSU was a perfect fit. Long before coming to GSU, she worked as a licensed practical nurse for 20 years, including as an oncology nurse at Emory Healthcare for four years before a desire for case management experience led her to transition into a transplant coordinator for its living kidney donor program.
“I gathered lots of information and worked up their physical and mental fitness assessments before surgery and put all of that into a database of living donors,” she said. “I think that was the start of wanting to go further into managing and using data.”
As Emory Healthcare transitioned into using electronic medical records, a technology consultant worked with the transplant team on the user interface. The interaction would lead Fofung to start thinking about her schooling again.
Though she had always loved nursing, she wanted a better work-life balance and working on the frontline of health care didn’t offer flexibility for a working mother. Over the years she took computer programming courses at a university, started a biology degree at another, and then an online bachelor’s of nursing with an expensive, out-of-state school. Working full-time, raising children and the cost of an out-of-state education pushed her to sideline her goal of finishing her degree.
Her work with an electronic health records tech consultant proved to be the impetus. “I saw how she worked to improve the process and to make the layout of records more user-friendly,” Fofung said. That led her to investigate health informatics and then to applying to Georgia State. She said the help and encouragement she received from the chair of the Department of Health Informatics, Dr. Cedric Truss, who worked with her on laying out a schedule of prerequisites before she applied to the program, was invaluable.
“It’s such a well-rounded program—business, computer systems and health care administration,” she said. “You see how data drives the health care system. You have a lot of choices of where you can go.”
After graduation she specifically looked for employers who featured a rotation system to mentor new informatics employees. She interviewed with at least six companies.
“If you believe in yourself and are dedicated, this program has excellent mentorship,” she said. “The faculty are very warm and welcoming. I’m so happy that I was able to do this. It was a good experience from beginning to end.”