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How UNG plans to connect students with health care industry positions
Kay Keller.jpg
Kay Keller, Director, Office of Economic Development & Community Engagement.

The health care industry is already one of the top employers in Hall County and the Northeast Georgia region, but the field is growing in a number of unique ways.

The University of North Georgia is looking to capitalize on the expanding field by connecting prospective and current students with opportunities in the health care industry at the Regional Education and Economic Development Summit on Thursday, Sept. 6.

The summit, hosted at UNG’s Convocation Center on the Dahlonega campus, will explore the confluence of education and economic development – how they “go hand in hand for a thriving economy,” said Kay Keller, director of economic development and community engagement at UNG.

Keller said there are many occupations in health care that extend beyond the hospital or emergency room.

For example, health information technology, data analytics and human resources management are growing niches in the field.

So much so, in fact, that UNG is launching a new bachelor’s degree in health care services and informatics administration next year.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the new degree at its Aug. 14 meeting.

More than 5,000 job openings exist in Georgia for workers in health care informatics, according to UNG.

The program, which will be based at the university’s campus in Cumming through a mix of in-person and online classes seeks to fill the gap between medical and information technology professionals.

“Health care is becoming more and more automated,” said Dr. Pamela Charney, a UNG associate professor in the College of Health Sciences & Professions who will lead the new degree program. 

“What our students do is bridge the need between IT folks who don’t speak health care and the health care folks who don’t speak IT.” 

UNG currently has certificate programs in health informatics and health care administration, which will become part of the bachelor’s degree. 

“We’ve already had great interest,” Charney said.

And she hopes to engage more potential students at next week’s Summit.

“We’re still sort of developing things and evolving as we go, and not a lot of the students know about the opportunities we have,” Charney said.

Keller said she is anticipating about 130 participants at the Summit, dubbed ‘Not Everyone in Health Care Wears Scrubs,” which will feature a keynote speaker (Frank Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health), as well as panels on education and industry.

Keller described the forum as an opportunity to teach attendees what it takes to break into the field and what specific job needs exist “by introducing them to career professionals and educational programming.”

“We have a lot of great speakers lined up,” she added. “You can come if you’re interested in any component of health care. I feel like we’re going to cover it.”

The summit will also feature sponsors, potential employers and other area resources, including home health care companies, clinics, financial institutions and information technology agencies dealing with medical records, according to UNG officials.

Keller said that while this summit will focus on health care, future summits may feature manufacturing or agriculture.

“We would always focus on high-demand career areas,” she added.

Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit

What: Education and resource fair

When: 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6

Where: University of North Georgia Convocation Center, Dahlonega campus

Cost: Registration is $25 for community members and professionals; $10 for students.

More info: