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David Marc and Ryan Sandefer with their book

David Marc and Ryan Sandefer with their book

When Health Informatics and Information Management faculty members couldn't find a textbook that met their classroom goals, they took matters into their own hands. Two years later, Ryan Sandefer and David Marc are celebrating the publication of their book, "Data Analytics in Healthcare Research: Tools and Strategies."

"It was a labor of love for us," said Sandefer, assistant professor and chair of the HIIM department. "It's very rewarding to have accomplished something that brings such value to our profession."

He and Marc, assistant professor and health informatics graduate program director, developed a progressive system of teaching data analytics using examples and learning activities based on a real database.

Their methods attracted attention in the field.

"We presented at some conferences, and our approach seemed to be well-received by other faculty. We had a conversation with a textbook company, and they were interested in the concept," Sandefer said.

He and Marc's first step was to construct a massive database of health care data, providing the material for 16 chapters of real-world case studies.

"Each chapter represents a research study that uses data from the textbook's database," Sandefer explained. Each research study revolves around using three software applications - database Microsoft Excel and two open-source programs, MySQL and R Studio - to extract and analyze data for the research studies. Sandefer and Marc designed the textbook following a step-by-step process that allows students to easily grasp advanced analytics concepts.

"It says a lot about our ability to package this in a way that's very accessible and limits the technical challenges that often plague instructional technology," Sandefer said. "We have developed something innovative in the field of health informatics and information management education, and we are extremely pleased that our expertise in health data analytics is being demonstrated in this book."

Sandefer is excited to be able to put it to use in the classroom while helping other HIIM professionals as well.

"It's validating that other faculty have a thirst for what we're doing," he said.

Xiaoming Zeng, professor and chair of the Department of Health Services and Information Management at East Carolina University, said the textbook is much-needed.

"Given the rapid growth of data and data types in health care, the knowledge and skills introduced in this book will prepare HIM professionals and students for the future of health care," Zeng said. "The case-based approach will be a great plus for classroom teaching, so students will be able to improve their data analytics skills to solve real work problems."

Diana Gardner, a course mentor at Western Governors University, said her department will use the text.

"The applications that come with the book are strong selling points for me in the Health Informatics program," she said. "They have taken some indecipherable material and put it in English so the rest of us can read it."

The textbook was published by the American Health Information Management Association Press and can be purchased at

St. Scholastica started the first HIM program in the nation in 1935, and has been a leader in the field ever since. In 2002, then-faculty members Kathy LaTour and Shirley Eichenwald Maki co-authored "Health Information Management: Concepts, Principles and Practice," and the book became the premier HIM text for bachelor's programs and some graduate programs. St. Scholastica HIM faculty members have written chapters in each edition of the text. Currently, faculty members Pam Oachs and Amy Watters are finishing up the fifth edition, to be released in July.