Balancing Volunteerism and the Day-To-Day: From the Perspective of an OpenHIE Community Member

By: Kasey Upchurch
Posted On: May 19, 2021

Conceptual architecture and the unique implementations are important tenants to OpenHIE. These two capture the practices and real-world action of health information exchanges. The final and perhaps most important piece of the OpenHIE puzzle is the community. The community outlines the approach and the process, putting people at the focal point:

  • People work in-country and with technologies to develop and define solutions
  • People come together to share successes and gaps in their approaches
  • People in countries/communities with successful implementations are the beneficiary of better health care from the work of OpenHIE community members

Committing to participate in a community of practice can feel like an overwhelming consumption of your time–which already comes in short supply when considering all of your responsibilities. So how do current community members do it? We worked with established community member, Haftamu Kebede Yigzaw, to share his perspective on finding balance as a contributing member of the OpenHIE community alongside other responsibilities in his day-to-day life.

Get to Know Haftamu

Image of HaftamuHaftamu Kebede Yigzaw of Ethiopia works as a Lecturer at Mekelle University in Tigray and is married with two children. Haftamu has over seven years of experience in software development, is a core team member of the Digital Health Research and Development Center at the university, and acts as a consultant on multiple projects.

In addition to being a full time employee with a family, Haftamu has many more responsibilities he manages. In a professional capacity, he spends extensive time to prepare for teaching. In a service-based capacity, he also works with local communities and teachers to create awareness of educational technologies for effective learning and teaching processes.

Haftamu was first introduced to OpenHIE by Dr. Araya Medhanyie to seek guidance on a use case. They both found the community and its efforts to be in alignment with their own local activities. Due to the relation with his work, it helped Haftamu easily get acquainted with the community and gain knowledge that has a direct impact on his professional work.

Within OpenHIE, Haftamu has found his home to be in a technical capacity and has been active in many discussions on the Academy, Architecture Review Board, and Interoperability sub-communities. Check out Haftamu’s Academy course on Interoperability!


Finding Balance

Almost everyone involved in OpenHIE is doing so voluntarily, in their own unique way–honing on their skillset and backgrounds.

Haftamu’s approach is unique to him, and he has some lessons learned to share with prospective community members and those already involved that are hoping to find more ways to participate. 

“OpenHIE is a multidisciplinary community with room for everyone. Sub-communities are more specific and usually discussions may go pretty deep. With a rough review of previous meeting logs and recordings, you can manage to cope-up. I would say devote some time on the review. The discourse is an important place! And once you get familiarized with the terminologies and common use cases, you can’t help but fully engage in the community. This, for me, was mainly caused by the culture in the community and the system in general makes you feel comfortable and the sense of ownership and being part of the global community! It is the best place to scale your impact professionally, an audience of a global scale.” – Haftamu

For those hoping to engage further in OpenHIE, Haftamu shares the following priorities:

  • Start at a place in the community where YOU fit in best to contribute and where you’d like to learn more. You can always add more to your plate later on.
  • Share local use cases you have an experience with. You will be able to get dozens of perspectives you never thought of from the industry gurus.
  • Don’t hesitate to share your ideas and questions. This community is cooperative and can help in coming to solutions.
  • Even after being involved for a while, come back to basic questions like “Are we being theoretical or ideal?” or “Are we solving practical challenges?” Community members are familiar with concepts and can become idealistic and theoretical in trying to find the most optimal solutions – it’s important to always come back to the practical and reusable solutions and then build on how to make them better in practice.

Participating in multiple work streams as an OpenHIE community member is a commitment of time, a valuable resource. Haftamu uniquely exemplifies how a community member can balance his day-to-day responsibilities with contributing to the OpenHIE. While his experience is not a one-size-fits-all, it’s important everyone finds their own individual perfect balance as a community member. To best spend your time with OpenHIE, it’s imperative that you find where the community suits your needs and skills best, to explore community resources (like Discourse) and jump into the conversations, and—if possible—weave together the work you do with OpenHIE to other work you are involved in.

Get started today by creating an OpenHIE ID, introducing yourself on Discourse, and exploring what the community has to offer!