MECC Receives Federal Grant to launch Health Information Technology Data Analytics Certificate Program

Big Stone Gap – Mountain Empire Community College has received a $887,676 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to create and deliver a career studies certificate program in Health Information Technology (HIT) Data Analytics.

The HIT Data Analytics program is designed for health professionals such as health information management (HIM) and allied health professionals to develop healthcare business data management skills through database management, change and project management strategies. Health IT Data Analyst work in hospitals, healthcare clinics, insurance companies, clinical research, consulting firms, and many other health related facilities.

The HIT data analyst program is a two-semester program, 12 credits per semester and all courses are 8 weeks in length. The program is set to begin Fall Semester 2022. The aim of this program is to provide advanced data and project management training for HIM graduates so that they may advance their careers forward and make room for entry level HIM employees to enter the HIM and HIT industry.

“We are appreciative of the resources the HRSA grant provides in supporting our offering of this new program in an in-demand, highly employable, health information management profession,” said MECC President Kristen Westover. “It allows us to create an incredible opportunity for the citizens of our region, and I encourage all who are interested to contact us.”

MECC is the only community college in Virginia to receive the HHS award, which is part of nearly $60 million federal investment to grow the healthcare workforce and increase access to quality health care in rural communities, including nearly $46 million in funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

The new certificate program will be led by MECC Health Information Technology Program Director and Assistant Professor Nora Blankenbecler. Blankenbecler holds a master’s degree in Business Administration specializing in healthcare administration and a graduate certificate clinical research management and is a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA). Her professional experiences include serving in organizations such as Duke University Medical Center, Cardinal Health, 3MHIS and Allscripts. Donna Owens is the program Assistant Professor, and her professional experience includes serving in organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, Pikeville Medical Center and EPIC. Owens holds a master’s degree in Health Information Technology and Project Management.

The HRSA grant will fund faculty costs, curriculum development, and scholarships for students for a three-year period. The creation of the new career studies certificate in HIT data Analytics, and the college’s workforce training efforts in health information management, revenue cycle management and medical coding, have helped the region hire and train personnel to meet the demands of federal healthcare business reporting requirements.

The Health Information Management Program and Health Information Technology Program at MECC is committed to improving health outcomes and promoting health equity in our SWVA region. The Health Information Technology Data Analysts is currently seeking students with working experience with electronic health record data as a healthcare technologist, nurse, or HIM professionals.

For more information on the MECC Health Information Technology Data Analytics program, contact Blankenbecler at 276-523-9054 or by email at Additional program information can be obtained by visiting