Creating Opportunities in Health Information Technology for the Next Generation of Pediatric Leaders

Melvin Smith (second from the left) works around the clock to develop IT’s workforce of the future. By day, he leads the hospital desktop team, and by night, he teaches Health IT classes at Seattle Colleges

When Information Technology (IT) supervisor Melvin Smith first joined Seattle Children’s as an administrative fellow in 2018, he never imagined where he’d be today. 

“I have always worked in environments where I was either the youngest or the only individual from my community group,” Smith explained.  

He also knows what it’s like to be ‘othered’ and understands the power of a great mentor. 

“I built the foundation of my career around not liking disparities,” he explained. “From my experiences with internships, fellowships and getting my first job, I always took the approach that I want to be the person I wish I had.” 

As part of Seattle Children’s dedication to caring for its young patients, training healthcare professionals from diverse experiences and backgrounds, pursuing innovation and serving the community, the organization’s Administrative Fellowship stood out.  

Smith was the first fellow to focus his career in the area of healthcare IT and successfully carved a path in the field.  

Now, he’s mentoring the next IT fellow, managing 15 hospital desktop technicians, educating the next generation of healthcare IT professionals at Seattle Colleges and building Seattle Children’s IT Career Pathways Program. 

“It was serendipitous” 

Melvin and Scott are two of the leaders behind the IT Career Pathways Program. The team also includes Wendy Price, Seanna Ruvkun, Jessica Bell, Corinna Frenzl and Taylor Floyd

Joined by his own mentor, senior director of IT Core Operations Scott Bingham who had laid the vision and strategy, they set out to create a successful pipeline of diverse and high potential candidates for healthcare IT roles at Seattle Children’s and to address social justice barriers within our community.

“We had a conversation about career pathways, and it was serendipitous,” said Bingham, who recognized Smith’s interest in career development and succession planning.  

Laying the foundation  

They started by identifying and expanding the entry points for IT careers at Seattle Children’s. 

IT had an established partnership with Year Up, a nonprofit focused on closing the opportunity divide, placing students in six-month internships across IT Core Operations teams to gain project management and technical skills. 

When Smith and Wendy Price, director of Workforce Development and Planning, joined the IT Career Pathways team in 2018, Bingham hired IT’s first two undergraduate summer interns. 

In 2019, they launched a post-graduate limited-term position to help individuals who recently completed an IT-related program such as Year Up or a degree program to gain work experience and build their resume. 

“We had a good foundation of creating access, and then we had an opportunity to build a strong, supportive infrastructure so we could bring interns in and support and grow them,” said Price.  

Smith also wanted to ensure that when the interns completed these internships or any other program, they could essentially get a job anywhere. A key part of this work was engaging others in IT who wanted to mentor the next generation.   

Expanding partnerships during the pandemic 

When the pandemic began, they had to pause internships and found an opportunity to focus on creating a new pathway in partnership with Seattle Colleges.  

The team developed a nine-month Health IT Certificate Program that prepares individuals for entry-level roles like service desk technician, desktop support technician and project coordinator.  

To make the program more accessible, Seattle Children’s funded 10 scholarships for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. The program launched in September 2021 and the first cohort graduated in June of 2022. 

Melvin Smith spoke at his alma mater Tougaloo College in 2019 about how access to healthcare technology is a public health issue

Removing barriers to advancement  

The IT program was one of Seattle Children’s first career pathways projects and has helped shape 15 additional projects at various stages of development to create opportunities in healthcare for the next generation of pediatric leaders. 

Creating a clearer path for growth and development highlights the work being done all across Seattle Children’s to promote equity, diversity and inclusion and to reach underserved and underrepresented communities while building deep community partnerships around shared goals. 

“Smith is a trailblazer. He blazed the trail for the Health IT program the same way that he blazed the trail for fellows to enter into IT,” Price said. “He’s not afraid of uncharted waters, and I think that’s really a strength of his and something that applies to everything that he does. He truly understands how to lay a path that can be walked by many more people.”