Eve Vokouma thought she was done with her education after she began her career in the United States.
An international student from Burkina Faso, she began her undergraduate degree at Georgia State, where she learned English as a second language. She transferred to another college to get a good footing in the language before coming back to complete her bachelor’s degree in biology.
Though she had plans to go on to medical school, after graduation she decided to take a gap year in order to gain some practical experience in the field. Employed as a retina specialist, Eve became a lead technician in 2019.
However, after marrying and starting a family, she began to see the demands and pressures on the lives of other surgeons and doctors at her clinic. She questioned if becoming a surgeon was the right fit for her.
COVID-19 pandemic further complicated her plans as she saw her hours cut from 80 hours every two weeks to just 16. Yet, while her work opportunities decreased, she noted some of her friends in IT had jobs where their hours stayed the same and they were able to work remotely from home.
“I was like, ‘there has to be a way for me to work remotely and still be in healthcare,’ ” she said.
Eve started looking for different degree programs. She thought about computer science, but her degree in biology didn’t quite match up with the requirements. That’s when she found Georgia State Online’s MSHS in Health Informatics program, a 36-hour program of study in an in-demand field.
Georgia State’s online approach is geared toward student success, checking all the boxes for Eve and providing her with the needed flexibility to balance her personal and professional obligations.
Most of her online classes were held in the evening or employed a hybrid model, enabling her to do her work when it best suited her life. Not only were the schedules workable, she said, but Georgia State instructors were sensitive to the needs of students with jobs and families.
“The teachers were very understanding,” she said. “If you can’t attend (a class) and send an email, they are always accommodating.”
While most of the communication with instructors comes virtually, the setup of the online classes enables students to build a relationship with their professors. That alleviated Eve’s fears about not going to a traditional classroom. In time, she was able to make connections and grow as a learner because of Georgia’s State’s flexible, online setup.
“Even though we were online, we were able to build some strong friendships,” Eve said. “We were able to study together. I honestly didn’t even feel like I wasn’t in a classroom setting, which was one of my fears. I was pleasantly surprised I was able to handle it with no difficulty at all.”
Georgia State’s Health Informatics program required a range of classes, including data analytics, project management and other topics, giving Eve a glimpse into what she wanted and didn’t want to do with her future.
“Being able to experience all of the aspects of healthcare gives you a perspective of what you want to do at the start,” she said. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunities when it comes to health informatics, so it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Coming out of the program, I already knew the type of job I wanted to do.”
Eve had three words of advice for prospective students questioning an online degree or certificate program: Go for it. “That’s the best decision you can ever make,” she said. “If I can do it with all of these responsibilities, there’s no way other people can’t.”