Theresa Cullen

Theresa “Terry” Cullen has worked with Health Information Technology since 1986. She started her career as a United States Public Health Service Officer (USPHS) with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in 1984 where she provided care to the San Carlos Apache community, one of many American Indian/ Alaska Native communities that she worked with during her career. Her interest in health information technology (Health IT) started in 1986 at Sells, Arizona where one of the first US deployments of a health information systems was in place, having been deployed on the Tohono O’Odham reservation in 1969.

Over the course of her active duty USPHS career, Terry worked as a staff physician, medical director, and national chair of the IHS medical directors and acting director of policy and planning for IHS. During this time, she was an avid supporter of the electronic health record (EHR) system, called the Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS). Terry was involved in requirements development, beta testing and deployments of multiple RPMS modules. RPMS is a derivative of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) award winning open source EHR, VistA. IHS worked closely with the VA in the collaborative development of the EHRs and some of the most significant improvements to the VistA EHR were developed at IHS and adopted by the VA.

The Indian Health Service is an operating division within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that provides care to federally recognized American Indian/Alaska Native tribal members. IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for federal tribal members through multiple delivery sites, including federally operated, tribally operated, urban facilities and external contracted care. The IHS provides care to approximately 2.2 million American Indian/Alaska Native from 566 federally recognized Tribes in over 35 states.

In 1999, she transitioned to full time work as the senior clinical informatics lead for IHS, working closely with the US Department of Defense (DoD) on the GCPR project.  During her tenure on this position, IHS was recognized as a leader in the health IT space, developing and deploying the first population health IT application suites. This included developing and implementing electronic clinical quality measure evaluation for individual clinicians, health care teams and national quality reporting beginning in 2003. In 2006, she was selected to be the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for IHS. During her tenure as CIO, she oversaw Meaningful Use Certification of RPMS, additional development and extension of the population health application suite, and worked closely with tribal and external partners to leverage health IT solutions to help achieve improved population and public health for American Indian/ Alaska Native communities. She retired from USPHS as a Rear Admiral in 2012 after working for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the direction of Todd Park to set up new governance for the HHS IT investment of over 6 billion dollars.

In 2012 she became the Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO) for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) where she worked until 2015.

Her personal journey reflects her commitment to effectively developing and using appropriate technology to improve health through collaboration and shared decision making. Her work with the Indian Health Service, where she worked with and learned from American Indian/Alaska Native communities, her transition to HHS, where she worked to develop a collaborative governance model between the Operating Divisions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as others, and her recent experience as the VHA CMIO, where she engaged with DoD as the Interagency Program Office acting Deputy Director as well as developed ways to include the VHA field in ongoing development and decision making,  are consistent with these commitments.

Terry is currently employed as the Associate Director, Global Health Informatics, for the Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University. This work is the next step on a journey of ensuring that social change exploits technological opportunities. The Regenstrief Institute is committed to service, research and improving health status. The OpenMRS and OpenHIE communities, an integral part of Regenstrief’s Global Health Informatics program, embrace and rely upon collaboration, shared decision making and transformative technological development.

Terry is trained in family medicine, has a specialty board certification in clinical informatics and has an MS in administrative medicine/population health. She remains as committed today as she was when she applied to medical school to help achieve health equity for underserved and under resourced populations through leveraging open source HIT tools. She has been recognized numerous times for her achievements during her active duty career as well as in the private sector