It is my pleasure to provide a letter of reference regarding Mr. John Aboud with whom I worked from January 2010 until January 2011. Mr. Aboud served in the capacity of IT consultant for the JSEI-VersaSuite EMR/PACS implementation program under the program management of Advantage Administration, Inc. (headed by Joseph Carroll). During this period, Mr. Aboud assumed the responsibilities of completely reorganizing the IT team that served the Department of Ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine – UCLA and building the infrastructure and security of the IT system for the deployment of the electronic medical record.
These tasks were far more complex than they might appear since there were serious HR issues in the IT group prior to his arrival, the network and server infrastructure had not only been seriously neglected, but was incorrectly configured and unstable. The Department had multiple servers on the verge of failure, there was no inventory of equipment within the department, and there were no standards or policies for operating systems, security or compliance in the department. There was no tracking system for IT requests and activities and many of the heavy IT users in the Department had resorted to their own network solutions and IT support to get their work done.
In addition to the basic IT issues above, Mr. Aboud faced some additional challenges. This EMR/PACS project required the integration of numerous diagnostic instruments to the electronic medical record and almost of these devices were storing patient data on the local instruments. Mr. Aboud was charged with upgrading these systems for central storage and retrieval as well as integration with the EMR-related software. In many cases, the vendors lacked functional software or provided us with unstable beta versions that required considerable testing and oversight. VersaSuite itself had to undergo considerable development in order to meet the network and operability requirements for the Department of Ophthalmology including functionality on a failover cluster for the database server and the ability to deploy the EMR on a terminal server, load-bearing cluster. Mr. Aboud repeatedly had to work directly with the VersaSuite developers to identify bugs and limitations and to help them test and deploy new solutions. All of this work had to be done while working closely with the UCLA Medical Center IT security and compliance group to ensure adherence to the medical center’s standards (which often had to be developed as we worked on this project).
As I read all of the tasks above that Mr. Aboud was asked to address, I can’t help but wonder why this project hasn’t failed. With so many unanticipated obstacles and challenges, we should have been one of the 20-40% of EMR deployments that have collapsed. We are not totally out of the woods yet, but we do have a stable network, a new cabling program that is underway, a ticketing system that has turned around the service problems of the IT group, a new IT director who was both interviewed and oriented by Mr. Aboud, and an operational EMR/PACS that is delivering the first DICOM compliant ophthalmic diagnostic repository in the world to its doctors. The system is connected to the UCLA registration and scheduling system and is capable of exporting documents directly into the document management system for UCLA. We’ve developed a database obfuscation tool that has allowed for ongoing development of the EMR while protecting UCLA PHI and this has become a model for the rest of UCLA Medical Center.
Okay – why am I telling you about all of our problems and challenges and haven’t really addressed the primary focus of this letter – Mr. Aboud. I am doing this because you can’t really measure the character, abilities and determination of an individual unless you have seen those qualities challenged by their job. This particular job has been perhaps the most challenging of my career (and also Mr. Aboud’s). Based on his efforts and actions during this period, I can truly attest that Mr. Aboud has been phenomenal. It has taken more than his years of experience and incredible IT knowledge to rescue us from our problems and move us forward. He has shown a level of dedication and commitment to the JSEI/Department of Ophthalmology client that has been exemplary. He has been willing to tackle the most difficult issues, learn new skills to achieve our goals, and essentially do whatever was necessary to make this project succeed. Mr. Aboud is the kind of person with whom you would want at your side for any endeavor. I am not simply referring to the technical aspects of the project, since he was instrumental in his advising the Departmental administration on a range of issues and working with the UCLA Medical Center IT people (who were initially very suspicious of this project) and problematic individuals along the way (I am not excluding myself from that group).
Mr. Aboud has now left our project, because he succeeded in creating an IT environment in our department that should be able to function and develop without him. We continue to face challenges as we deploy our system, but the worst of the obstacles seem to be behind us and we have a team that he has created that has the ability and energy to move us forward. However, I confess that I really miss working with him. He is a person in whom I have complete trust and respect. His opinions and advice were invaluable and I know that he would tell me what I needed to hear (not necessarily what I wanted to hear). I am deeply indebted to him for all of his contributions to our department as well as the friendship that he extended to me and the rest of the team.
Michael B. Gorin, MD PhD
Medical Director for the JSEI-VersaSuite EMR deployment program
Harold and Pauline Price Professor of Ophthalmology
David Geffen School of Medicine – UCLA
Jules Stein Eye Institute