Toni Cade, an associate professor of health information management, describes the profession as “ever-changing.” She should know. She has been involved in the field as a teacher and a professional for more than 30 years.

“When I first started teaching in the late ’80s, we were teaching concepts about a paper-based medical record. That has evolved into something much bigger and more important,” Cade said. “Now that we rely on electronic records, students have to learn more.” For example, they must learn about voice-recognition technology to transcribe medical reports, optical disc imaging to store records, and bar coding technology to locate records.

Cade received the 2011 Dr. Ray P. Authément Excellence in Teaching Award presented by the UL Foundation.

Carol Venable, a professor and head of the Health Information Management Department, said Cade has a gift for teaching complex and challenging topics. “She has the ability to take an ordinary course filled with difficult material and make it fun for the students to learn it.

“Her experience in the working world is also an asset in the classroom. She is always updating her professional skills and incorporating them in her classes.”

Cade teaches an array of classes: medical terminology; hospital statistics; health care reimbursement, which includes Medicare and Medicaid policies; quality improvement of patient care and hospital processes; risk management; case management; and medical coding. To stay informed about policies and procedures, she meets regularly with the management staffs of area hospitals.

HIM graduates must pass a national certification exam to become registered health information administrators. Cade is co-author of a series of books written to help graduates prepare for the exam.

Over the years, Cade’s students have performed well on the national exam. As a result, UL’s program has achieved a high pass rate. “It’s not only helping our students, but students across the United States, to earn that credential. I’m really proud of that,” she said.

“One of the strengths of our program is that students don’t spend all their time in a classroom,” she added. Students complete two semesters of clinical rotations in local hospitals, learning about the clerical aspects of the profession.

The capstone course is a senior internship. Students spend a month learning management practices at a hospital or other healthcare facility. Cade coordinates the internships, which take place throughout the United States. “They tell me where they would like to go and I work out a contract, if possible, with the hospital of their choice.”

In 2004, Cade was named a Fellow by the American Health Information Management Association. It’s the highest professional honor bestowed by the association. She is one of about 100 Fellows across the United States and one of only six in Louisiana.

Cade said she enjoys the freedom that comes with teaching.

“Teaching gives you the freedom to pursue your passion, to specialize in an area of expertise. The freedom to publish, to do consulting … the freedom to work as hard as you would like.”

The University of Louisiana Foundation honored four exceptional faculty members in April who inspire their students and colleagues. Honorees are nominated and chosen by their peers. The Distinguished Professor Award has been given since 1965. The Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1992 and was renamed in 2008 to honor former UL President Dr. Ray P. Authément. The awards include a stipend and are given each year at a banquet held to honor the recipients

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