Dr. Heather Sobko

Dr. Heather Sobko

In Memoriam  - October 13, 2017

Heather Sobko was our business partner. Her passion and enthusiasm for Survivor Healthcare will be missed. Words cannot express the loss we feel. However, thank you for the beautiful eulogy Linda.  This truly is our loss.

Below is a Eulogy for Heather Sobko, read by Linda Edelman

Good evening. My name is Linda Edelman. I’m an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing and I was Dr. Heather’s Sobko’s Division Chair while she was faculty in the College of Nursing from July 2016 to this September. Heather’s death was untimely and tragic; but it’s wonderful to see so many of us here tonight to honor her. The Dean of the College of Nursing, Dr. Trish Morton, asks that I share her deepest sympathies to Heather’s family and friends. She sends her regrets for not being able to attend in person tonight as she is traveling to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Deans meeting in Washington DC.

As I’m sure everyone in this room knows, Heather’s death is a great loss to Nursing Informatics. I would like to share some of Heather’s achievements with you. She earned her PhD in Nursing with a focus in nursing informatics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Upon earning her doctorate, she was awarded a competitive Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship in Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research. Then in 2015 she was a Fellow of the National Readmission Prevention Collaborative in Washington, DC. These opportunities honed Heather’s expertise in using technology to improve the lives of patients -especially for older patients during transitions of care. Heather was very active in professional informatics associations, notably the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) where she served as Chair of the Membership Committee.

Heather founded (and funded) a comprehensive technological system, the Interactive Voice Response Care Transition Systems (IVR CTS), to address challenges associated with complex patients transitioning from hospital to home. IVR CTS was purchased by an Atlanta-based company. After Heather helped successfully transition IVR CTS to this company, she joined the faculty of the College of Nursing in July 2016 as the Director of the Nursing Informatics Specialty. As you can imagine, she embraced this new position with high energy and brought many creative ideas to the table.

At work, I observed Heather’s TWO passions. The first was to infuse informatics into nursing and nursing into informatics! She wanted all nursing students to understand the role of informatics in health care – from individual patient technologies to health systems – and she worked to create online modules about nursing informatics for all nursing graduate students. She pursued opportunities for nursing informatics students to engage with industry and healthcare organizations so that they gained real-life informatics experience that would help them advance their careers upon graduation. Heather was also devoted to mentoring students to become leaders through her work with AMIA and HIMSS – the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. She was continuing efforts to provide students with practical experience, even after resigning from the College of Nursing, as the Student Liaison Director for the Utah Chapter of HIMSS. Heather’s passion and enthusiasm for nursing informatics made a big difference in her short time in the College of Nursing as evident by her success in recruiting new students into the Nursing Informatics Specialty Program. To you students here tonight, I want you to know that she was so proud of all of you and really wanted you to succeed!

The second passion I observed, was Heather’s love for research. She came to the University of Utah a successful entrepreneur, having created IVR CTS, an interactive voice response telephone system that allows the health care team to collect patient information remotely and triage patient responses in order to support patients who have transitioned from hospital to home.

I think one of the things I admired most about Heather – was that even though she was innovative – a big ideas person – she always brought a practical perspective to her teaching and her research. Her desire was to create practical feasible solutions that made a difference in the lives of patients – especially vulnerable older adults.

Heather recently had the opportunity to join an industry partner. She described this position as a "perfect fit" for her interests and expertise. At the College of Nursing, we believe that people should be in positions that feed their souls and we supported her in this transition, appreciating her willingness to continue to teach as an adjunct faculty member.

In the short time we knew Heather she enriched out lives with her colorful and energetic personality. Her passing leaves a hole in our College of nursing and informatics communities.  We offer our condolences to her family, especially her parents Edward and Barbara.

In closing, I leave you these words from William Wordsworth’s Splendour in the Grass

What though the radiance
which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass,
of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;

-- William Wordsworth