Susan Wallace, MEd, RHIA, CCS, CDIP, CCDS, CRC, FAHIMA, served ArHIMA as the 1987-1988 President. She is currently Vice President of Inpatient Services/CDI for Administrative Consultant Service, LLC.

How did you hear about the HIM field?
I heard about the HIM field through my family. My grandmother owned nursing homes, a great-uncle was head of a radiology department and an aunt was a dietary consultant. They made sure I was introduced to the field.

Where did you go to school?
I completed my graduate and undergraduate work at Arkansas Tech.

Did you have an educator(s) that assisted you, went above and beyond for you, made you want to become a volunteer for ArHIMA, or helped shape you into the professional you are today?
Donna Didier promoted participation at the state level and helped me start the very first HIM student organization at ATU. Susan Parker came to ATU during my senior year and when we later had an opportunity to work together, she always went above and beyond to introduce me to HIM professionals across the country.

How long have you worked in this industry?
Since 1978!

Which has been more valuable in your career, your education or your experience?
Both my education and my experience have been critically important. Without the educational foundation, I would not have been able to obtain the employment that gave me the experience. I do hope everyone reading this realizes that education should be ongoing well beyond graduation. No one graduates and instantly knows it all, so the experience is invaluable as well. After 43 years in the HIM profession, I am still learning new things – because there are new clinical articles, new diseases, new regulations, new codes…it’s truly neverending.

What was your first job?
My first HIM job was at Rebsamen Memorial in Jacksonville, AR. I worked in the medical record department Friday evenings and Saturdays while I was in college. I did filing, chart assembly and typical clerical jobs of that time. I’ll never forget Beth Anderson telling me that if I was caught up, I could also code. I’d not yet had a coding course, but it really didn’t matter much. We were using ICDA-8 and there was no such thing as Coding Clinic!

Tell us a little bit about your career?
I started out as the Medical Record Director at Dardanelle Hospital, also coordinating medical staff activities, doing utilization review and assisting in administration for six years. I then had an opportunity to serve as an instructor at ATU for 3 years before moving to Hot Springs to be the program director for the state’s first accredited RHIT program. As Garland County Community College grew, the health science programs became a separate division from the nursing program and I chaired that new health science division. About 14 years after coming to Hot Springs, we moved to northwest Arkansas. I became an inpatient consultant for ACS, which is where I work today.

What part of your career do you love?
Probably no surprise, my favorite part is education. Regardless of where I worked at the time, I’ve been able to focus the majority of my career on educating others in the HIM field in the classroom or in the workplace.

What kind of advice do you give to someone who is in the earlier part of their career about how to reach the top?
Become a lifelong learner, do what is right even when it is difficult, go the extra mile, and volunteer. I say that – not because I’m writing this for ArHIMA – but because it helps you to get outside your own bubble, meet new people, gain a different perspective, and learn more about the profession. Professional contacts all across the country can someday be an influencing factor for that new job you are seeking!

What is the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
To embrace change; it’s going to happen and you need to prepare yourself to make the best of it. Keeping abreast of change will also help you to excel in your career. 

What do you do at work on a daily basis?
I am vice-president of inpatient services at ACS. There is a lot of variety in my day – including managerial functions like coordinating schedules, approving reports, discussing audit and education needs with our clients, providing support to my team of inpatient consultants and service on the company’s administrative team. But my favorite part is probably the product development to support data analysis and education; doing the necessary research to keep up-to-date, and collaborating with our consultants to refine our tools. Those tools are the foundation for our online e-learning products, webinars, remote and on-site client education.

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Keep seeking opportunities to learn and grow professionally. Volunteer, research the answers to your questions, don’t hit the easy button. You will thank yourself in the long run!

Is there a quote that motivates you?
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

How do you maintain a work-life balance?
You don’t want me to answer this question 😊

What made you decide to run for President of ArHIMA?
I ran for president because I wanted to help make a difference. This is entirely a volunteer organization, and nothing is going to be accomplished without dedicated volunteers.

What did you learn from being President?
I was president very early in my career – I was still in my twenties. Being president increased my professional network, gave me new leadership opportunities, and greater insight into the profession at the state and national level.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about placing their name on the ballot for the President-Elect position?
You should give the position serious consideration, being fully aware of the time commitment the position requires. I’ve never regretted the time professional volunteer activities require because I felt each volunteer position gave me new opportunities to learn and grow.