Melinda Wilkins, PhD, RHIA, FAHIMA

Melinda Wilkins, PhD, RHIA, FAHIMA, served ArHIMA as the 1993-1994 and 2013-2014 President. She is currently Professor of Health Informatics and Director of the Health Informatics and Health Information Management Programs at Arkansas Tech University.

How did you hear about the HIM field?
I came across HIM by accident. I was a pharmacy major in college, as my great grandfather had been the oldest living pharmacist in the U.S. when he passed away. I wanted to follow in his footsteps…at least I thought I did! Once I began taking the classes, I realized that wasn’t truly where my passion was. I found HIM (or Medical Record Administration back in the day) in the college catalog. I remember calling my parents to tell them I wanted to change my major and they questioned whether HIM was a legitimate major since they had never heard of it. Fast forward to today…and it was the best decision I could have made!

Where did you go to school?
I went to school at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma. I didn’t have a car and I worked a side job of cleaning houses but could only clean those that I could walk to. My program director hired me to be the student worker for the program during my senior year and I loved that.

How long have you worked in this industry?
Gosh, I almost hate to say! I graduated from college in 1983 and immediately began working for a physician’s office. It was a team of three…the doctor, a nurse, and me. We had a great time and worked hard. Then I was hired as the HIM director for the hospital in Weatherford. I worked in that role until I started at Arkansas Tech in 1988.

What are a couple pieces of advice you would give to someone who is just starting their career?
I believe it is imperative to remember that this is all a journey. We may not know exactly what we want to do when we first start our career. Once you begin to learn more and experience different settings, you will begin to see just what it is that you truly enjoy and want to continue. It is so important to have goals but remember that it is okay to adjust those goals as you go along. The world changes every day and you have to remain cognizant of what is happening in our industry and how you can best contribute.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the time spent with students. It is so satisfying to see how they begin the programs usually a bit apprehensive and then grow in confidence. It just does my heart good to cross paths with the graduates later and see how they have grown into wonderful professionals. It makes me extremely proud.

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
I believe it is important to keep an open mind and think about the future. Our world changes quickly, with healthcare and technology in the forefront of those changes. I like to think about what might be next and how it could impact our industry. In knowing this, it makes it doable to set personal goals and make sure our careers are moving along with the changes. It also can make it really fun!

Is there a quote that motivates you?
“We Can’t Direct the Wind but We Can Adjust Our Sails” is a quote by Thomas S. Monson. This has always spoken to me as I feel like we will always have changes in our lives. We can choose to stay the same and complain about the storm or we can adjust our sails and think positive as we look ahead to better times and smoother waters.

Who inspires you?
My mother has always been probably my biggest inspiration. Her mother passed away unexpectedly when she was only 13 years old. She was one of 9 siblings with the youngest being 9 months old. She immediately took on the role of being a mother with cooking, laundry, cleaning and sewing, etc., as well as working on the family farm and going to school. I look back at her yearbooks and see such a big smile and how she excelled in school. She has always looked to see how she could help others and just enjoyed life through those experiences. My forever hero!

How do you maintain a work-life balance?
My home time is typically really calm as it is just me and my sweet little miniature Yorkie named Moose. This calm time, coupled with some great long walks outside feel really good to help me clear my mind. It is also important for me to have fun things on my calendar to look forward to. My siblings live across the country and we have had weekly sibling virtual meetings for about the past two years. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. We work to plan fun outings and those times where my tummy hurts from laughing so hard are the absolute best.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about placing their name on the ballot for the President-Elect position?
I have to admit that I was a bit nervous to run for President-Elect the first time that I did. What I learned was that ArHIMA has a great team and I wasn’t in it by myself. There are so many that are willing to help. The experience was wonderful! It not only led to connections with peers in the state, but I met so many colleagues from others states and many still reach out to each other today. Yes, it is extra work on top of what you are already responsible for, but it is so very satisfying to know you have a role in helping move our state association forward. I would highly recommend it! I will always be grateful for our state association and the wonderful connections I’ve made through this experience.