Name: Morgan Dillard
Hometown/Current Residence: Mtn. View, MO
Occupation: Remote Medical Coder for CoxHealth in Springfield, MO
All Degrees/Certificates Received: BFA-Graphic Design, University of Central Missouri, 2012; AAS-Health Information Technology, Missouri State University-West Plains, 2022
“Missouri State-West Plains helped me accomplish my goal of gaining the education needed to start my career in health information technology.”
To say Morgan Dillard’s life was busy is an understatement. The single mother of three young children was working multiple jobs to make ends meet when she finally decided to reset her life and find a career that allowed her to stay at home with her children and make a living wage.
Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) had the perfect option for Morgan in its Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology degree. “I chose MSU-WP because it was close to home and offered a completely online course load, which was perfect for my busy life,” she explained.
Morgan’s decision comes with adjustments
The decision to return to the classroom came with its fair share of adjustments, though. “When I first enrolled in March 2021, I was out of my element. Previously, I had done a degree in person, single, without children. The world of completely online courses was overwhelming,” Morgan explained.
“Thankfully, Tresa Ryan, my adviser and mentor, was a huge support. She helped me get going with everything. By the time I graduated I was different. I was confident, excited to start my career, and felt like my knowledge base was everything I needed to be successful,” Morgan added.
Morgan also realized she would have to adjust her priorities to meet the demands of being a full-time working mom and a full-time student. “The fact that I was a working single mom to three young children while doing full-time classes was unique and challenging. I had to really hone my time management skills, organize my life and prioritize responsibilities, all while focusing on a lot of areas at one time. Using these skills helped me feel confident moving forward after graduation. I felt empowered to be able to take on any job that would come my way,” she said.
The rewards outweighed the difficulties
In just one year and eight weeks, Morgan reaped the rewards of her decision, graduating from MSU-WP with her AAS in Health Information Technology degree – and, with honors!
“My greatest achievement was completing my degree while maintaining over a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) while working two to three jobs and raising my three children,” she said. “My greatest professional accomplishment, so far, has been earning my Certified Coding Specialist credential through the AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) in February of 2023.
“With my degree, I’m able to help those in my community better understand the technological side of health information,” she added. “I’m able to explain how information is processed for their medical records. I can help them with clarity of their health insurance plans and policies, as well as how to transfer their information between hospitals.
“I think a lot of people do not grasp all the things going on in the background of their visits to healthcare facilities,” Morgan said. “I am thankful to have that knowledge and to be able to help others navigate certain areas of the healthcare system.”
“I was rewarded with a career that doesn’t feel like work.”
Morgan was pleased with her overall experience at MSU-WP and is thrilled to be doing a job she loves.
“Overall, my experience at MSU-WP was rewarding. I was given the tools needed for success in a career that I discovered I have a passion for,” she said. “Medical coding, and health information in general, is such an interesting avenue of healthcare to pursue, and MSU-WP only fueled the flames of interest for me. It feels fun and exciting to go to my computer each day and work through various paths of information to reach a conclusion. To me, having that passion is invaluable.”
She encourages others like her, and all current and future students, to not give up on their dreams and goals. “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. I’m sure it sounds cliché, but it has never been more true in my life. At 31 years of age, I basically reset my career course. I knew what I ultimately wanted to do, I set the goal, and then I worked to reach it.”