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UIC Alum and Adjunct Instructor, Josh Aguiar, explores the intersection of technology and healthcare

UIC HI and HIM Alum and Faculty member Josh Aguiar smiles at camera in glasses and black tshirt.

Meet Josh Aguiar, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, HCISPP, an alumnus and Adjunct Instructor for the University of Illinois Chicago’s (UIC) Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences. Aguiar’s career and educational journey is a testament to the dynamic nature of healthcare and technology.

Since earning his online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management (BSHIM) degree from UIC in 2017, Aguiar has navigated various roles within the cybersecurity space. His initial entry into healthcare involved IT compliance audits where he gained valuable experience in regulatory frameworks such as HIPAA and HITRUST.

Driven by a desire to broaden his horizons, Aguiar pursued his online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) degree from UIC in 2020. This decision led him to explore opportunities in financial and tech industries. He currently works at Cohere, a tech company specializing in making artificial intelligence accessible for businesses.

Aguiar has remained deeply connected to UIC’s online HIM programs and now serves as an Adjunct Instructor. His commitment to educating future healthcare professionals is reflected in his course teachings. Learn more about Aguiar’s background, and the courses he teaches.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I currently work in the cybersecurity space. I’ve been in the field since I graduated from UIC’s online BSHIM program in 2017. Directly after the program, I started in healthcare, focusing on IT compliance audits, and then transitioned into more risk-oriented roles. I moved into consulting, primarily dealing with frameworks like HIPAA and HITRUST.

I then graduated with my MSHI degree from UIC in 2020. I wanted to try something new that was still within the same scope of work but within a different industry. I then went on to work as a Senior GRC Lead for Brex, which is a financial tech company. I now work for Cohere, which is a tech company focused on artificial intelligence.

What specific factors led you to choose the BSHIM and MSHI programs at UIC?

Since I was a kid, healthcare has always been my career goal because of my family’s involvement in various healthcare roles. Initially pre-med, I aspired to enter UC’s nursing program. However, I soon realized direct patient care wasn’t my path. I knew I was drawn to healthcare administration, particularly privacy and security, which led me to pursue a BSHIM degree at UIC.

Staying at UIC, I recognized the importance of extending my skills beyond healthcare into technology. Before she retired, Karen Patena, the Program Director of the Health Information Management undergraduate and graduate programs, recognized my interest in enhancing my tech skills and recommended the MSHI program. I enrolled and was very excited to continue learning from a faculty that I deeply respected.

What are the valuable skillsets you learned in the online BSHIM and MSHI programs?

Within these programs, you really learn the importance of data—good data, bad data, and how it drives decisions in healthcare settings. In the BSHIM program, you explore the significance of having safeguards to protect data. Initially, you start with the basics and gradually progress to more detailed requirements and project management aspects concerning data integrity, privacy, and security. The MSHI program emphasizes the critical role of technology in achieving these goals and how it shapes the field of healthcare.

Although I’m not currently working in healthcare, I find that the knowledge and skills I gained are highly applicable across various industries. The healthcare industry and financial services are among the most regulated sectors and navigating both equipped me with a strong foundation in compliance and data security practices.

How have you applied your skills to overcome a challenge at work?

One of my first jobs was in a consulting firm where different business units provided various services, including healthcare. Given the nature of healthcare services, compliance with regulatory and contractual requirements was incredibly important. The consulting firm saw significant turnover within the corporate security and IT departments which left a gap in expertise regarding HIPAA compliance and data security protocols. This created an opportunity for me to step into a role where I could provide guidance despite not holding a managerial position. I collaborated closely with the chief compliance officer and other stakeholders to assess and enhance our HIPAA program. My degree and background in HIM and knowledge of privacy and security regulations allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the program’s review and improvement process.

Can you tell us about the courses you teach in the online HIM programs?

In the BSHIM program, I’m the instructor for the HIM 367: Systems Analysis course which is typically taken toward the end of the program. It’s designed for students to apply their skills in areas like data integrity, privacy, security, and project management to implement a healthcare-related system. This course focuses on practical application rather than just learning concepts.

In the MSHIM program, I teach the HIM 450: Health Information Technology & Systems course which explores healthcare technology, covering topics like artificial intelligence, SAS, machine learning, and other emerging technologies impacting healthcare. The course serves as an introduction to the intersection of technology and healthcare. My goal is to prepare students to succeed in an industry that’s being significantly impacted by technology.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’m enthusiastic about having more students join our program and progressing through both the bachelor’s and master’s programs. It’s incredibly rewarding to witness students graduate and embark on diverse career paths. The versatility of the HIM program allows students to explore their interests and find roles that align with their career aspirations.

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