Student Testimony: Herlende the Single Mother Superhero

Overcoming obstacles and working on being her best has become second nature to Herlende Saint-Phard. She is the sole provider for her daughter Ami-el, and is proving to the world the strength of a mother’s love, the power of positivity, and that the American dream is still alive and well.

Learn how Herlende Saint-Phard – single mother, immigrant and USF Bull – strives for excellence in a challenging and complex world.

We caught up with Herlende for an interview after receiving some of the most compelling graduation pictures (below) we’ve ever seen.

Please give us some background information about yourself, including your family, work, educational and geographic history.

My name is Herlende Saint-Phard and I am a recent spring 2016 USF graduate. I am also a proud Haitian-American. My family is originally from Haiti. We came to this country around 1982. I say this to emphasize and pay homage to my parents and family members who sacrificed so that I may succeed. I recently moved from Miami to Tampa in 2011 to start a better life for my daughter and I. I am extremely happy that I decided to move to Tampa because that decision truly changed my life.

My time in Tampa has made me realize that I am capable of greatness. I’ve accomplished so many things, such as obtaining my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the past 5 years, while working full-time and being a single mother. In 2011, I obtained my Bachelors in Health Sciences. I can also proudly say I now have my Masters of Science in Health Informatics from USF.

For the last 5 years I have worked in the financial industry and I am currently an Escalated Customer Service Supervisor. With my newfound degree, I’m looking forward to crossing over into the medical field. I am excited because this is a field where I feel that I can make a profound difference in people’s lives.

Based on my collegiate experience, I can confidently say that USF is one of the best universities in Florida. USF provides so many opportunities to enable their students to thrive in the workforce. I feel that they have properly equipped me to “take over the world” and my new field. I’m glad I chose to go to USF. GO Bulls!

Who or what inspires you to succeed?

My daughter is my biggest motivating factor to succeed in life. It was certainly tough to juggle single motherhood and being a full-time student. I know for some time this has been a repetitious tale – as old as the Earth. But I also recognize that it is a feat and can inspire others who may be in similar situations.

My goal is to constantly be better than who I was yesterday. I strive to be a good role model for my daughter to follow. Since I am a single parent, it is very important for me to work twice as hard to succeed in life. This is why I put 110% in everything I do because essentially you want the best for you child.

So I work very hard and I constantly challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone to be great. I want her to see me as an example and for her to understand that there may be unexpected roadblocks in life but they do not have to hinder you from accomplishing your dreams. Essentially, I am inspired by my need to leave the world a better place for her.

mother and daughter at usf graduation by Bull fountain

What is one fun fact about you?

One fun fact about me is that I love to travel. As a child, my parents used to travel a lot by car to many different cities in Florida. We never traveled outside of Florida. It was more affordable at the time for my parents to travel by car and travel within Florida. So when I turned 25, I decided that I wanted to get out of Florida and flew for the first time on an airplane with my daughter.

She and I have been all over the United States for the past 2 years. I’m hoping to go international this year with my daughter to visit different countries like Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, of course.

What made you decide to go back and pursue your master’s degree?

I decided to go back to school and obtain my master’s degree because I simply wasn’t satisfied with just my Bachelor’s degree. In today’s society, it seems as if you need more than a bachelor’s degree to get ahead. I knew that a master’s degree would help me achieve my careers goals. It would allow me to learn and incorporate different educational tools that I could use to advance my career.

mother and daughter with single mother graduation statistic

What attracted you to the online Master’s of Science in Health Informatics program from USF Health Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida?

I remember hearing about the health informatics degree when I was taking an undergraduate class, Health Sciences (HSC 2100) at USF. It piqued my interest because this field is more on the technical side of the medical industry. I believe that this degree is embracing the new wave of technological advances that is greatly needed in the medical industry.

I’ve always had an interest in electronic medical records. I remember I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and it took the hospital about two hours to bring a book to provide information about my condition. Now it takes medical employees a lot less time than that. They are able to retrieve all necessary records and data with a click of a button using electronic medical records. I believe that electronic medical records is one of the best innovations in the medical industry.

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite class was Legal Aspects of Health Information. This class was very informative and showed how health information is handled from a legal standpoint. It is interesting reading about different cases and how it is important to keep patient information confidential.

Some cases were really eye-opening such as the Meier vs Awaad case. This case demonstrated the different measures that are taken before patient information can be provided. This class also taught me the consequences of violations of the Privacy Rule. These consequences can have an impact not only on medical professionals, but it can also have an impact on the organization’s reputation. This class provided a great in-depth knowledge of legal issues with health information management that I will carry with me into any position.

What surprised you most about taking an online program?

The one thing that surprised me about taking this online program was that it was very convenient. Every class was 8 weeks long and the structure of each class was very similar. Most of the classes for this program had assignments due every Sunday before 11:59. This allowed me enough time during the week to complete the assignments.

Many of the professors provided very convenient office hours for students to attend virtually to help them understand the classroom material. I was extremely thankful for this and took advantage of this opportunity whenever possible.

What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?

The most valuable takeaway from this program is that health informatics will certainly transform the health industry. It is a great field that can advance my career whether I am clinically in the medical field or non-clinically in the medical field. There are so many different career paths for someone with a health informatics degree. I’m so happy that this is the degree I chose to obtain.

Tell us about your experience/relationship with your re-enrollment representative with the program.

Doug Maine was my re-enrollment representative throughout my entire journey through the program. Doug is amazing at what he does. He checked in with me monthly to help me with registering for classes. Also, he checked in regularly to make sure that classes were going well and to make sure that I had everything I needed to complete the course.

I don’t merely consider Doug Maine a re-enrollment representative. Doug was a great advisor that wanted to make sure I was able to complete each course successfully, and he seemed to genuinely care about my success.

instagram frame at usf graduation

What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?

I would recommend that potential candidates check out the USF health informatics website. Take a look at the requirements to get into the program. Look at the “News” section of the website because it provides many articles about what’s going on today with health informatics. I would also recommend researching more about the benefits of health informatics.

What are you going to do now that you have earned your degree?

I’m currently looking for job positions in the health informatics field – Systems Analyst, Healthcare Business Analyst, Implementation Analyst and other related Health Informatics positions.

There are so many different job opportunities with a degree in health informatics. I’m also in the process of trying to obtain certification in Structured Query Language (SQL), Microsoft Excel, and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. I want to do as much as I can do to stand out to future employers as an ideal job candidate.

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