Pam Buchanan is the woman behind it all. As the director of University Health Services at Western Carolina University, it is her job to keep everything about the Health Center-from Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance to customer service-in working order.
Buchanan has lived in the area her entire life. She even attended Western Carolina for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Though she started out in programming in college, Buchanan soon shifted gears and went to work at what is now Medwest-Harris Regional Hospital.
“I don’t know that I really wanted to be a programmer. I enjoyed the way you think, that analytical path. I was able to apply all that stuff I enjoyed to the hospital,” said Buchanan.
She started out small by answering the phones behind a desk. Through the years, she was able to move through the ranks and worked her way to an administration position. All the while she kept her ties with the University as being on the Alumni Board of Directors before coming back to work for WCU.
“Whether it was coming back to football games to being on the alumni board, I cared about what happens here,” she said.
Buchanan also serves as the HIPAA compliance officer, which means that she is responsible for making sure medical records and patient information remains secure. Her role as the HIPAA compliance officer also means that she works with IT to make sure records are digitally protected.
On top of overseeing the safety of private information, she also monitors trends the World Health Organization and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention are watching. This way she’s able to keep an eye out for illness trends that could make their way to Cullowhee, much like the way “swine flu” did in 2009.
To add to her list of responsibilities, Buchanan works with other departments on campus, such as athletics and the campus EMS. She also keeps tabs on what patients are commonly seen by which doctor. That way, if a different doctor has to see the patient, the original doctor can be kept up to date on what’s going on.
With the Western Carolina growing, Buchanan keeps the Health Center growing as well. She is continuously addressing and evaluating the needs of the students. A few of the questions she has asked herself is what would it mean to have radiology here, or what would it mean to carry more providers?
“It’s about spending students’ money on appropriate resources,” she said.
Buchanan added that what she enjoys most about her job is speaking with the patients, be they student or faculty. She also said she enjoys using her analytical thinking skills to keep everything running while also creating an environment where doctors can be doctors and nurses can be nurses.
“We want to deliver excellent care…We want you to feel welcome when you walk in the door,” said Buchanan.
At the end of the day, it’s the students that keep her going and constantly looking for what needs to be improved. Buchanan encourages anyone with questions or concerns to contact her at 828-227-7640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.