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Monica Trujillo | Ccentric Podcast Series

Monica Trujillo - Ccentric Podcast

Dr Monica Trujillo | Ccentric Podcast

Chief Medical Officer and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Cerner Corporation

Dr Monica Trujillo is the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Cerner Corporation.

Monica recently sat down with Ccentric consultant, Pam Lubrainschik to discuss her career. Some of the questions they discussed include:

  • Why did you decide to study medicine, and more specifically public health medicine?
  • What is the most rewarding part of being a clinician?
  • How did you first get involved in the digital health space?
  • You were the first CMIO in Australia, can you explain how it was decided that this position needed to be created and how long this process took?
  • What do you think has led to the rise in the demand for CIO’s and similar roles?
  • In terms of people you have seen being successful in leading digital initiatives, are there any common experience sets and/or personal qualities that are key to success?
  • Have there been particular people who have inspired you during your career?
  • With the people who have inspired you in your career, what leadership style did they use to bring people on the journey?
  • What are your top tips for young aspiring leaders in the sector?
  • What do you think has been the biggest impacts of technology in the healthcare sector to date? What about the future?

Why did you decide to study medicine, and more specifically public health medicine?

Coming from a family of engineers, medicine was not my top priority. But when I actually was in school, I decided initially that I wanted to do biology because I thought it was so interesting until I actually we studied the human body and that’s when I was completely enthralled and fascinated with all the science of medicine. So I was convinced that this was an area that was just so wonderful to study. That’s what took me into medicine. But then while I was studying medicine, going back to why I’ve gone into the public health area, while I was studying medicine in South America. One of the big learnings was around all the big impacts of the social determinants have on health and the outcome of our communities and how we as health providers need to be in sync with our community to provide a better service. Therefore, I was again fascinated by the area of public health and how public health focused on the bigger area of health, not just in one specific area. That’s what led me to my interest in this particular area in public health.

What is the most rewarding part of being a clinician?

I think for everyone it will be different, in my personal experience is the most rewarding part, I would say is at two levels, is when you can see that you have supported someone individually in the journey to get better. That problem-solving help them and be a partner in problem-solving. But then at the system level, when you have made a change or have done an impact to improve people’s lives and their wellbeing, it’s about those basic human rights of dignity, respect. They feel that they listened and heard and the community itself improves. So for me, that’s sort of the two sides of the area where I find most rewarding.

How did you first get involved in the digital health space?

I went into medicine interested in the beauty of medicine itself and the human body, then I was interested in the social determinants. My career took a twist to be interested in health service management as well, and so I was working in health service management. To be honest, trying to plan services and run health services without digital tools. I found that coming from a family of engineers, that was really not ideal and you were years behind data. So I became a big advocate of using digital tools in health and for health service delivery and for health delivering in itself. That’s how I think, how I got that first job as CMIO, as the first CMO in Australia. That all came together, the love of technology, the training in public health and medical management came together for that role in digital health, and I have not looked back.

You were the first CMIO in Australia, can you explain how it was decided that this position needed to be created and how long this process took?

When I say I was the first CMIO, it was the first official CMIO, but I stand on the shoulder of informatic giants in medicine who had been working for a long time to do that medical input into technology as well. But the role of chief medical information officer was probably not as identified, it was emerging from overseas as a key part of the success in any project. My boss was someone that I admire incredibly and a big visionary in health and saw this as a key role to bring into their project a CMO. Hence I ended up in this job, and like many other of my colleagues who end up in this job. It was sort of the different interests, the advocacy for it and the fact that I had some skills and knowledge, but really no experience, because this hadn’t happened in Australia for our first fully integrated digital hospital, which was St Stephen’s in Harvey Bay. I think it was bringing together someone that was a chief executive who was visionary, the right time and the right place, to be honest.

What do you think has led to the rise in the demand for CIO’s and similar roles?

Well, I think I’ve mentioned before, I think it was one of the key lessons learned from projects or programs of work in health technology, that unless you had a clinical lead in those areas, you were in strife they weren’t as successful as it could be. I think now that the value has been demonstrated, it’s one of those key roles that is part of any digital implementation, whether it’s a small or a big one. You have to have a clinical leader sitting at that deciding table. For me, it was really translational services between technology and the clinical world, but also as a remover of roadblocks to get make sure that things were done with always the patient at the centre and patient safety is a top priority so that we could all come together into that one vision. With patient safety and patients being at the centre. I think that’s where we all merge, between technical programs, clinicians, we all have that same common vision. So I think that’s where we all come together.

In terms of people you have seen being successful in leading digital initiatives, are there any common experience sets and/or personal qualities that are key to success?

Well, I think there’s such a variety and there are so many people now in Australia that are doing this and we can see them as successful in leading a lot of strategies. I think the common denominator, to be honest, is that personal passion for using technology is a driver, but also that sense of purpose that, you know, this is what supports the engagement that the clinicians for the consumers and for the providers of health to come together. So I think those are the common denominators. It’s more rather than any other particular trait. I think from a skill set, it’s helpful to have an understanding of management of health service and governance and projects as such. But if you don’t have those personal drivers of, you know, the passion for this happening and a sense of purpose, then the other things I think are secondary. I think those personal drivers is what I’ve seen as common in successful leaders

Have there been particular people who have inspired you during your career?

I have many particular individuals that have inspired me throughout my whole life. But on a personal perspective, my mother is a huge inspiration, my sister’s a huge inspiration. My mum was a complete advocate of making sure that you excel at what you do and you follow your passion no matter what comes around. My sister is a technology evangelist who went and did a master’s in artificial intelligence, it’s an amazing brand of what technology can do in terms of knowledge management. My dad had the first computing centre where we lived, so I just find my family amazingly inspiring. On a professional perspective, I have come across so many people that are inspiring. I think what’s touched me, it’s about going back to that passion and personal drive. As I mentioned, our Chief Executive, who was Richard Royale at that time, he was so inspiring and making things happen in a fun way, in a good way, and always bringing it back to that human connection. Our Chief Medical Officer at the time was Luis Prado, who’s now at Epworth, and he was incredibly inspiring. I could go an endless list of names, but I think what it comes to why I do it is it’s back to those personal connections and my personal source of inspiration really where I come from.

With the people who have inspired you in your career, what leadership style did they use to bring people on the journey?

I think, again, this is my personal perspective, they were values-based leaders. So charismatic and stuck to their values and what was the right thing to do, forged a path for others to come along in their journey. What I admired about this and I’m going back to that values-based leadership is integrity, and that when something wasn’t the right way, they would come and tell you, this is not we’re not going in this path right here and now. You trust and build trust in the team that so that if our leaders said this was not the right time, you had to trust their judgment and find a way to move around. Going back to what leadership style that connects with me and I find inspiring, is that values-based leadership.

What are your top tips for young aspiring leaders in the sector?

If they don’t see the type of role that they want here and now, don’t be discouraged because the payoff is there. There is a lot of changes coming. But truly go back to what your passion is, because if you do find your passion you will find your sense of purpose that will help you really ride all those challenges that come your way. Because there will be challenges, one of the key things I say to my son, who’s about to enter into university, we’re only deciding your first step in your journey and you never know where the road might take you, you never know where you go. And don’t try to plan too much just, try to go with some of that flow and what’s coming to you as well.

What do you think has been the biggest impacts of technology in the healthcare sector to date? What about the future?

I think with COVID times, technology and healthcare have really emerged to the forefront. It’s helped bust a lot of myths of what we could do and what we couldn’t do and what was possible. Technology can provide a lot of possibilities, it’s around making sure that it’s fit for purpose and that we bring it along. I think the most underutilised resource in healthcare is our consumer and technology and COVID has helped to bring that to the front to make sure that we have a consumer’s healthcare as an outpatient, engaged and able to access information. So that they can actually stay healthy and look after their family, technology has helped with connecting care teams to consumers. What was before a cutting edge practice, has now become mainstream. I hope it’s here to stay because at this point in time, what we hear is that consumers are really thankful and really using the technology and want it to stay.


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