Alumni Spotlight: Karyn Onyeneho, MS Health Informatics ‘14

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Karyn Onyeneho, who graduated from George Mason University in 2014, lives by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in her commitment to public service and community engagement: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Onyeneho graduated from Mason with a Master of Science, Upsilon Delta National Honors, in Health Informatics. Onyeneho’s degree has opened doors for her at the National Institutes of Health, where she serves as a Genomics Scientific Administrator, and at Howard University, where she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences with a Concentration in Nutrigenetics. In speaking of her education at Mason and why she chose her field of study, Onyeneho said:

Karyn Oyeneho
Onyeneho graduated from Mason with a Master of Science, Upsilon Delta National Honors, in Health Informatics.

“Upon completing my Bachelor of Science degree at Howard University (Howard) in December 2012, I was interested in seeking an advanced degree in the field of health information technology to marry my interest in health administration with information technology. I learned about the MS Health Informatics program at Mason from a professor at Howard. I decided to apply and was thrilled that I made the decision to attend Mason. The courses from the program were applicable to the technical knowledge and skill sets I was seeking and the professors who were teaching courses in the program, had extensive backgrounds in the field. I also marveled at Mason’s enriched learning environment and it’s fostering of a supportive community to ensure student success.”

Onyeneho is a Genomics Scientific Administrator for Return of Results in the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative, All of Us Research Program (AoURP), Division of Scientific Programs (DSP), appointed in 2018, where she supports partnerships between the program's Genome Centers and the Genetic Counseling Resource for the responsible return of genetic research results to research participants. Her work is critical to the core values of the AoURP in supporting efforts to ensure research participants have access to their genomic data and access to the program's genetic counseling services. Prior to joining the DSP, Onyeneho spent her first year at AoURP developing policy guidelines while supporting establishment of the Resource Access Board in the Data and Research Center.

Onyeneho currently serves as Community Engagement Chair for the National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE) Washington Metro Area Chapter, where she provides strategic community engagement leadership between the chapter and local and extended community partners. Onyeneho also was elected as Vice President for the Howard University Science Policy Association (HUSPA) in November 2020. In that role, she supports science policy development from the perspective of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HUSPA addresses the health disparities and socioeconomic issues that individuals and communities of color face in regard to policy. Onyeneho spoke of her experience working in this position, and how her education at Mason has helped her thrive in her field.

“I learned a variety of technical skills and knowledge that I could apply in the real world, such as how to optimize visibility of an online marketplace via eCommerce search engine optimization; how to apply bioinformatics tools for data generation and analyses; and understanding the value and administration of health quality standards for better health outcomes. I am able to apply knowledge towards my current professional work as a Genomics Scientific Administrator at the National Institutes of Health and as a fourth-year PhD at Howard University, with regard to

comparative genomics analyses, the development and utility of mHealth, the association of inequities in healthcare and health disparities, and bioinformatics to analyze gene variation and expressions.”

Onyeneho is a recipient of numerous academic, philanthropic, and professional awards and was recognized by Senator William C. Smith, Jr., who serves on the Maryland General Assembly in Montgomery County Legislative District 10, with a community service award for her "outstanding commitment to public service and dedication to making our community a more just and equitable place for all". When asked for her advice to current health informatics students, Onyeneho imparted wise words on being passionate about your career choice and jumping into the field straight away. “Make sure that you love what you’re learning in the health informatics program so that upon graduation, you are motivated to enter your chosen career field. Also, decide on a desired career field as early as possible to help forecast the trajectory of your career and to position yourself in the health informatics program effectively such as taking coursework that complements what you envision doing professionally upon graduating.”