From automobiles to missiles to milestones, each in its own way has led Ramakrishna "Rama" Koganti to healthcare, an industry he's been in for almost 10 years. His professional experience both inside and outside of healthcare has provided a wealth of knowledge for his role as program director of data analytics at Southwestern Health Resources (SWHR).
His job covers a lot of ground, including program and knowledge management, statistics and predictive modeling, and data governance. An important part of this is establishing and maintaining rules and standards that support data quality and decision-making within the organization.
While science is Koganti's strength — he has secured five U.S. patents and published 90 scientific papers in journals and international conferences — driving healthcare change has become his passion. He sees that same passion throughout SWHR, a major reason he decided to join the organization. He said, "Everyone here talks regularly about how we can improve patients' lives, and what we do at SWHR actually does impact patients — that’s the beauty of being here."
A diverse career path
Prior to joining SWHR, Koganti served as lean process improvement director for Baylor Scott & White Health and executive director of John Peter Smith Hospital's Innovation and Transformation Center.
In his earlier career, he worked as an automobile engineer working on high-performance and luxury cars — including the Ford Shelby Mustang, Aston Martin Vanquish and Jaguar XJ. Later, he was a program manager for the U.S. Army at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, a Department of Defense missile testing facility, where he improved missile testing schedules and helped lead solar energy strategy and lean process improvement initiatives.
This diversity of experience has allowed him to view healthcare with a fresh perspective, and while very different from healthcare, these industries do share many key concepts, he said. For instance, when it comes to the project management aspect, his positions over the years have been very similar.
"In my background, I've always measured progress by milestones, and each milestone contains tasks that must be completed," he said. "By the time you reach the end, your product is ready to manufacture."
Applying a new perspective to healthcare
Specific to his current role, he explained, "Here, 'product' can mean reports, computer applications or services." For example, his team recently helped one department by designing a "5D" process framework (define, design, develop demonstrate and deliver) for executing data analytics and data science projects.
I love to interact with people in a new organization that is growing because you can truly appreciate the teamwork and relationship aspect of what we’re able to accomplish.
"Our teams are also very nimble and lean," Koganti said. "I love to interact with people in a new organization that is growing because you can truly appreciate the teamwork and relationship aspect of what we’re able to accomplish."
His enthusiasm for sharing knowledge also extends to the next generation of data scientists. He teaches machine learning and statistics at the University of Texas at Arlington and also serves as a mentor to computer science graduate students. He said, "I challenge the students with new machine learning algorithms and that can be applied to the healthcare industry."
Koganti added that regardless of a person's professional experience, SWHR has something to teach everyone, with its cross-functional teams and opportunities to work with various departments. "Interfacing with multiple departments creates a great learning curve, so you learn many new things every day."