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University of Michigan School of Information


Faces of UMSI: Christine Carethers

An image of Christine Carethers standing on campus surrounded by fall foliage, wearing a U-M t-shirt and a red bandana

With a bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan, double Wolverine Christine Carethers has long been interested in the social determinants of health. Since beginning her Master of Health Informatics at the School of Information, she has discovered an equal passion for “the technical side of things” — and what becomes possible when she bridges the gap between. 

Christine remembers when she first learned about health informatics. She was working in a behavioral nutrition lab at the U-M School of Public Health. “Through my experience there, I was learning a lot about the importance of structuring our data capture system,” she says. “I thought that was really interesting. I wanted to see what I could do professionally to explore that interest more, and I learned about health informatics.”

Christine is passionate about improving health outcomes for individuals, but she hadn’t pictured herself working in the clinical space. The rapidly growing field of health informatics — which puts information technology to use in improving health care — spoke to her interests as well as her desire to make an impact. 

The deciding factor, in choosing UMSI, was the excitement she felt when looking at the courses offered. “I felt like I could explore more applications of health informatics through Michigan’s program,” she recalls. While the other programs she applied to had a single focus on biomedical informatics, UMSI offered the opportunity to study consumer health and public health informatics. 

During her first year in the MHI program, Christine worked in professor Tiffany Veinot’s community health informatics lab. Her focus was on researching and understanding what payment assistance programs are available for generic and brand name drugs, then organizing that information into a database. 

She was surprised by what she found. “If you’re uninsured, there aren’t a lot of payment assistance programs that exist to help you cover your medication,” she explains. While some brand name medications offer payment assistance programs, these require a lot of paperwork — placing an additional burden on uninsured patients. 

“It’s really intense,” Christine says. “That’s one of the biggest surprises I saw from doing that research, and it seems like it really has a direct impact on people’s lives.” 

A headshot of Christine Carethers wearing a U-M t-shirt
Christine Carethers is using data to visualize new possibilities for patients and clinicians at Michigan Medicine.

Now in her second year, Christine is creating data visualizations to help clinicians and administrators at Michigan Medicine make informed decisions. This internship, which she calls the perfect fit, is also helping her to visualize a career path. 

“Originally, when I came into the program, I knew it was a field I was interested in, but I wasn’t certain which direction I wanted to go in,” she says. “Right now, I’m really interested in the data analytics and reporting side of health informatics. It would be great to find a role similar to what I’m doing in my internship.” 

Christine, who entered the MHI program with only a little bit of programming experience, now considers herself to be “a really technical person.” She geeks out about SQL and fondly recalls first learning about interoperability. While her classmates have a range of interests, she says this earnest engagement with the material defines the community in the MHI program.   

“In all of my classes, it seems people are really interested in learning the content, and also mastering the content,” she says. “That’s really motivating.” 

She has found a mentor in Allen Flynn, director of the MHI program and clinical assistant professor of information, who she often emails for advice. In her internship search and upcoming job search, Christine says she can rely on UMSI’s Career Development Office, which offers services including resume review and practice interviews. 

She feels prepared for what comes next. 

Eventually, Christine pictures herself in a management role. “I’m interested in being in a role where I can really get to know people and assist people, and pass on what I’ve learned,” she says. “Hopefully change things for the better.” 

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