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UD alumna honored for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health record modernization

By Dave Larsen

University of Dayton alumna Dr. Laura Kroupa, née Petersen, ’80 exemplifies the call to “learn, lead and serve.” In October, she was honored for pioneering the effort to configure the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new electronic health record system, setting national clinical standards to transform health care delivery for more than 9 million veterans.

Kroupa, a physician who holds a bachelor’s degree in premedicine from the University, is chief medical officer for the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization. She was one of four senior VA leaders honored Oct. 30 by FedHealthIT magazine during an award ceremony at the Leading for Impact: Women in Leadership conference in Arlington, Virginia.

“This recognition is a testament to how VA is breaking barriers in leadership and innovation,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, in a statement. “We are proud of our women leaders for their commitment to driving change through technology solutions that improve experiences for our veterans and their families.”

The VA is transitioning from its legacy electronic health record (EHR) technology to a unified, commercial system that connects with the Department of Defense. The new system compiles data from service records to give both federal and private sector doctors instant access to veterans’ complete medical histories, from the time they entered military service through their care at the VA.

Kroupa described the project as the largest EHR transformation ever. She said the award is recognition for her team’s work to move the health IT industry forward.

“It’s a chance for us to really provide better care for our nation’s heroes and for us to decrease the burden on both the veterans and their clinicians,” she said. “They have all the information for that person at their fingertips in the same electronic health record.”

The new EHR system will be deployed over 10 years, starting this summer at three VA medical centers in the state of Washington. With an annual budget of about $74 billion, the VA’s Veterans Health Administration provides care to more than 9 million veterans enrolled in VA health care programs at 1,244 facilities across the globe, including 172 VA medical centers and outpatient sites.

Kroupa holds a medical degree from Saint Louis University and has been with the VA for more than 30 years. She also serves as an associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. In recent years, she has made a number of return trips to the University of Dayton, where her daughter, Carolyn, is a sophomore communication major. Carolyn works as a web content contributor for the College of Arts and Sciences and also writes for Flyer News.

“I had a wonderful experience at UD, but the student neighborhood, the buildings and just the spirit on campus — everything has gone in a positive direction since I graduated,” Kroupa said. “The experience for Carolyn has been better than I anticipated. She is set to go to Australia this summer with the communication department. Certainly, the opportunities abroad are much greater than they were back in my day. That’s really been an area of expansion.”

Kroupa lived in Campus South in 9C and is still friends with her former roommates. Her premedical advisor was Kenneth Schraut, who taught mathematics at the University from 1940 to 1993 and was well-regarded for his advising. She was a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the health preprofessional honor society, which provided her with a number of good opportunities as she prepared for medical school.

“My experiences at UD allowed me to get into medical school, which really was the launch of my career,” she said. “There was always a strong emphasis on values, on serving others, on the human side of medicine. That has certainly served me well. The more that I go into the technology of medicine and health IT, the more I have come to appreciate that patients need that personal touch, that personal connection. Whether it is through telemedicine or face-to-face, that’s what they need from their providers. I think UD gave me a really good foundation in those values.”

Kroupa anticipates spending more time in southwest Ohio in the future as the EHR program rolls out to VA medical centers in Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“My job as the clinical leader in this is to keep us focused on the veterans and to use the data that we are bringing to this to improve veterans’ health and improve the quality of care,” she said. “It is a very humbling program to be part of. The VA as a whole is a national treasure that I think is sometimes underappreciated. We have a team of energized, dedicated folks who believe in the mission very strongly. We want to make sure that veterans’ health care is easy and efficient, and provides them high-quality care. That is what we are focused on.”

For more information, visit the University’s premedical programs website.

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