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AHIMA20: Dr. Leana Wen Delivers Closing Keynote Address

CHICAGO – October 17, 2020 –
Leana Wen, M.D., M.Sc., FAAEM, a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University School of Public Health, delivered the closing keynote address at AHIMA20 on Friday. Dr. Wen is also a medical analyst for CNN and a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, and is the former health commissioner of the city of Baltimore.

At the meeting’s Friday afternoon general session, Dr. Wen shared her thoughts on COVID-19 and the future of public health and healthcare. She spoke about the vital importance of health information, as medical and government leaders need it to make prudent decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really need data or else we’re flying blind,” Dr. Wen said. “We’ve seen lack of data hampering our response this far.”

She also spoke about social detriments of health (SDOH) and the importance of recording SDOH data in patient health records.

“How am I supposed to treat my patient with asthma and ignore that he lives across the street from an incinerator?,” Dr. Wen asked rhetorically. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on minority and vulnerable communities, she noted, and she discussed how recording SDOH data could help improve care for members of those communities. Dr. Wen said health information can play a key role in this much-needed evolution.

“There is quite a significant role of health IT in this,” she said. “All of you can be tremendous help in getting the focus not only on health care, but on health.”

Katherine Lusk, MHSM, RHIA, FAHIMA, 2021 AHIMA President/Chair, also spoke at Friday’s general session and talked about how the health information profession will change in the wake of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 impacted the entire world and made us all realize the expansive reach and relevance of trusted data. The pandemic illustrated the importance and value of health data on a global level,” Lusk said. “Our reputation is more than 90 years of supporting healthcare delivery through accurate and complete clinical data. I am proud of our ability to adapt as healthcare evolves and the role we play as a stabilizer.”

Friday marked the third straight day AHIMA hosted dozens of education sessions and a virtual exhibit hall at its first ever virtual annual conference.


AHIMA is a global nonprofit association of health information (HI) professionals. AHIMA represents professionals who work with health data for more than one billion patient visits each year. AHIMA’s mission of empowering people to impact health drives our members and credentialed HI professionals to ensure that health information is accurate, complete, and available to patients and providers. Our leaders work at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and business, and are found in data integrity and information privacy job functions worldwide.

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