Young Veteran Brings Unique Understanding to VA Program

November 2012
Paul Hurley
Paul Hurley

Information systems engineer Paul Hurley got his first taste of MITRE as part of the company's Veterans Employment Training (VET) program. Now, the former Navy gunner's mate is aboard full time—and working on ways to ensure that other veterans get the same quality of health care that he received.

Hurley joined MITRE full time in March 2012 after graduating from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (He tells more of his story in the video below.) With his degree in hand, he knew exactly where he wanted to go next. "Coming back to MITRE full time was my goal. I was really hoping that I'd be able to find a place here. It's been good for me."

It's become an especially good fit given the project on which Hurley spends much of his time.

A View from Both Sides

Along with other colleagues in the Center for Enterprise Modernization—the federally funded research and development center operated by MITRE for the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs—he works on the integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) project. It's a joint effort by the Department of Defense and the VA to adopt a common, modernized system of keeping and sharing veterans' medical records.

Veteran Paul Hurley talks about how the Post-9/11 GI Bill led him to college—and now MITRE.(Video by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

Hurley—who still visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to replace or repair the prosthetic right leg he received when wounded in Bahrain—has a direct stake in the project's success.

"On the DoD side, I was in a hospital for nearly three years after I got injured, so I'm pretty familiar with the way they track everybody's health records," he says. "Now as a civilian working with the VA, I see that a lot of records are lost, and that hits me personally."

"When I'm talking to my doctors and nurses and I see them on the computer punching in the notes, I know I'm working on the other side of that, supporting the people that are creating those portals that they're using to log my information in. Before I came to MITRE, I wasn't really aware of all the work it took to build one of these electronic health records systems. The logistics of the system are pretty incredible."

But Hurley has tackled all the challenges head-on. This comes as no surprise to Kevin Gunn, who leads MITRE's iEHR's engineering team.

"Paul's definitely got a 'can-do' kind of attitude," Gunn says. "He's not afraid to take anything on, and when he comes up to a roadblock, he's the first one to say, 'Can you show me how to do this?' He's been through a lot, and so things that happen in a program office on a daily basis don't really faze him all that much."

Internship Provides Good Preview of MITRE

Hurley has more responsibility now than he did when he first came to MITRE as a VET intern in 2009. He feels the internship gave him a head start and it helped him understand MITRE and its work. "You never know what assignments you're going to get here. It's a little nerve-racking at times but I've had a lot of really good opportunities."

Such growth and maturity bears out what MITRE's Tom Tierney saw in Hurley when he and others interviewed him for the VET program.

"When we interviewed him, we saw that he had a lot of drive and a very positive attitude," says Tierney. "Our hope is that if we put enough information and opportunity in front of these veterans, they'll rise to the occasion—which I think he has—and become loyal employees. I like it that he's here, and now, I like the idea that I get to see him on a regular basis because we're on the same project."

And Hurley is eager to learn even more. He's been accepted into a program called the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities, which offers training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities resulting from their service. In addition, he is participating in the Certified Associate in Project Management program administered by the Project Management Institute.

Meanwhile, he can point with pride to his efforts on behalf of the needs of his fellow veterans—needs he understands as few others do.

"When I go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center now, I'm proud to say I work on iEHR," he says. "It's pretty cool."

—by Russell Woolard

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