By Tiffany King
Dr. Ian Easton, assistant professor of health informatics and healthcare administration at the College of Coastal Georgia, was recently recognized as a Distinguished Leader by the Medical Group Management Association - American College of Medical Practice Executives. The designation is a new member classification for those who served as president of the MGMA or ACMPE. The recognition honors continued leadership and contributions to the industry of medical group management.
MGMA is focused on advancing healthcare professionals through peer-to-peer and mentor-to-peer support systems. Members of the association have access to resource strategies for best healthcare practices, industry experts, networking events, and the latest information relating to their field. There are approximately 20,000 MGMA members representing 2,500 medical groups.
ACMPE is the certification and fellowship entity of MGMA. Members can become certified medical practice executives through ACMPE, validating their expertise and experience in medical practice management.
Easton started his career in medical group practice administration at the University of Florida Health Science Center Shands Hospital in Gainesville, managing 250 physicians. At the time, he was looking to join an organization where he could continue to improve in his profession. He learned about the Florida MGMA state organization, started to attend the meetings, and eventually joined the group.
MGMA has four subgroups, known as sections: Southern, Eastern, Midwest, and Western. Easton worked his way up through the ranks to become president of the Florida MGMA, and in the same manner, worked his way to becoming president of the MGMA Southern Section in 1994. Throughout his career, Easton managed practices affiliated with academic hospitals, such as Shands Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Loyola University Medical Center. Because of his academic background, a colleague suggested he pursue becoming president of ACMPE, which he achieved.
For his years of service within the MGMA and ACMPE Easton was given the honor of Distinguished Leader. Easton said he was very excited to be given the honor.
"Being a part of MGMA leadership is a lot of time and effort on your part but it is well worth it in terms of personal and professional satisfaction. I think MGMA wanted to recognize those who gave a lot of their time to leadership positions, and helped make MGMA prestigious," said Easton.
Easton retired from active medical practice and started working at the College in 2001. He was the director of technical education when the College was known as Coastal Georgia Community College. As the institution changed over time, his career at the College included serving as divisional chair for business programs and teaching accounting courses, health finance, and now health informatics and healthcare administration. Easton and Lee McKinley, associate professor of health informatics and coordinator of the Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics program, are working to get the health informatics program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM). The CAHIM is an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) commission dedicated to assuring competency of professionals practicing health informatics and information management that will allow students to gain certain credentials.
Through his affiliation with MGMA-ACMPE, Easton stays informed on the latest healthcare industry information, technology, and medical group practices, which he shares with his students.
"I bring back to the College what's happening out in the field now," said Easton. "I attend a lot of the workshops to see the new changes and know what's on the horizon. All of that information I bring back to the classroom."
Easton also uses his time volunteering at the hospital to prepare students for the future. He volunteers four hours a week at the Southeast Georgia Health System's Emergency Department where he helps staff move patients to different areas of the hospital and observes how hospital employees use different information systems for patients.
He is very hopeful for the College's health informatics and healthcare administration students, whom he has watched mature from their freshman year to senior year.
"I'm excited about the opportunities for our students. The field is wide open in all areas of health care," said Easton.
Easton shared the two keys to advance in a career in healthcare: earn a master's degree in informatics or health administration and earn credentials through an organization like MGMA-ACMPE.
Easton spent 24 of his 26-year career in group medical practices with MGMA, and said he loved every minute of it.
Dean of the School of Business and Public Management Skip Mounts commended Easton for being recognized as a Distinguished Leader.
"I have been blessed by wonderful faculty and staff. Everyone works collaboratively for the benefit of our students. Many have had amazing professional careers as well," Mounts said. "While Ian is humble about his career, he was a leader and innovator in the changing management/practice structure of healthcare and healthcare providers."