Meet Dr. Rod Tarrago, MD, an intensivist and chief medical information officer at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
You have two roles at Children’s. Can you describe them? Having two different but complementary roles at Children’s is one of the best things about my job. I spend about half of my time as a pediatric critical care physician in both pediatric intensive care units. This is where we take care of the sickest kids, ranging in ages from just a few days old up to “kids” in their twenties. While it can be challenging, it’s also extremely rewarding because truly, most kids do get better. The other half of my time is spent as Childrens’ Chief Medical Information Officer, where my job is to be the “go-between” for Children’s physicians and providers, and the IT department. I work to make the electronic medical record more efficient, safer, and easier to use. I also often find myself answering questions and working on technologies that don’t really have anything to do with the electronic medical record such as the online call system and even helping people get their email set up on their iPhones!
What fascinates you about the intersection of medicine and technology? In this day and age, there really is no separating medicine and technology. One could argue that being comfortable using the electronic medical record is just as important as knowing how to use a scalpel or knowing which antibiotic to use. We are now moving into an age where we are relying more and more on electronic data to tell us about our patients, and tell us how well we are doing in treating our patients. That is one of the most exciting aspects of my job — being involved with technology has really opened doors to many opportunities to improve our quality and safety.
What drew you to pediatrics? From the time I decided to go into medicine, I knew I was going to do pediatrics. Even when I was a teenager and young adult, I was always drawn to kids. During holiday dinners, I preferred to sit with the kids. It was just a lot of fun. For me the difficult decision initially was which area of pediatrics to pursue. I entered my pediatrics residency with the intention of becoming a general pediatrician. That changed my second month of residency when I got to do my first PICU rotation. On my first day, I got to take care of a really sick little kid. By the end of the day, my head was spinning, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my career — I wanted to become a pediatric intensivist.
What do you enjoy most about your job? For me, the best part of my job is the variety. One day, I can be taking care of a child with a life threatening infection. The next day, I can be standing next to a geneticist teaching her how to enter orders more efficiently. The next, I might be attending the hospital’s quality meeting talking about how to make medication use safer. Most days, I get to do a combination of all of these. It’s challenging, but very rewarding and never boring.
If you weren’t working in medicine, what do you think you’d be doing? This is a tough one. I’ve always loved math and science, so I’m sure I’d be doing something involving these fields. My major in college was biochemistry, so there’s a chance I’d either be working in a biotech company, or maybe even teaching science to kids. After all, it was my high school chemistry teacher who took a child of the 80’s who wanted to be an investment banker and turned me into a science and computer geek (or at least brought out my inner geek)!