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AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, struck a hopeful note in her AHIMA Day General Session speech Thursday afternoon, even as she acknowledged the emotional toll that the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and political unrest, and economic turmoil had on her personally.

“The first few months of the pandemic, all I could see was the loss—both on a personal and professional level. And, the losses were real. The fear that I felt was real. And, so too, was the anger,” said Harris.

However, she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the fear and uncertainty of this era for long. Instead, she drew inspiration from an executive coach who says there are two ways to lead during turbulent times: sit back and wait for our world to return to a pre-pandemic state, which is not likely to happen; or create and act on a new playbook that moves us forward to something better and stronger. Harris opted for the latter path and says she made a conscious decision to reject the platitude that “hope is not a strategy.”

“I determined that hope would be an active force in my life and at AHIMA, motivated by a fervent belief in a brighter future. In my view, we cannot successfully navigate toward our next new normal unless we activate hope and move past our fears and our doubts. Our hope helps us rise above some of the losses we have sustained and the uncertainties that still lie before us,” Harris said.

“I determined that hope would be an active force in my life and at AHIMA, motivated by a fervent belief in a brighter future. In my view, we cannot successfully navigate toward our next new normal unless we activate hope and move past our fears and our doubts. Our hope helps us rise above some of the losses we have sustained and the uncertainties that still lie before us.”

Accomplishments in a Challenging Year

Despite the burdens of a pandemic that profoundly impacted the lives and careers of all healthcare professionals this year, Harris pointed to successes and progress AHIMA has made and will continue to realize, such as:

  • After the death of George Floyd this summer, AHIMA released a statement that outlined the connection between health disparities and incomplete and inaccurate health data. The statement made recommendations as to how health information can help create the changes we want to see, and how AHIMA and its members can contribute to that change.
  • The AHIMA Foundation mapped out a new strategic vision and programmatic agenda focused on promoting data-driven changes and eliminating barriers to better health outcomes and healthcare equity.
  • AHIMA led the creation of Patient ID Now, a group of like-minded industry stakeholders advocating for policy action to solve patient identification and matching issues.
  • AHIMA leveraged the expertise of international members to develop a new telehealth course.
  • AHIMA will be launching ACCESS: AHIMA Curated Communities to Enhance Success and Sustainability, an online community where members can share skills and ideas for leading societal change in the profession and their communities.

Harris concluded her remarks with a call to action, encouraging members to “…build up our community by inspiring and motivating, involving new voices, and learning aside one another. Community is an entrenched part of our history, it is what brings most of us here today, and it will be the animating force of our hope-filled future.”

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech, published in response to AHIMA20 attendee demand.

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