With only a few weeks left in her premed undergraduate degree program at the University of California, Davis, Shamsi Berry decided she'd rather have a degree in physical anthropology. Little did she know that she had taken the first step on the road to becoming a leader in one of the fastest-growing fields in health care: informatics.
Berry joined the faculty of the Health Informatics and Information Management Department at the University of Mississippi School of Health Related Professions in July. The department's Master of Health Informatics program is one of only seven in the country accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
Her family's decision to move across the United States could be compared to the aforementioned degree change. It was a decisive action that happened quickly.
“When I moved here, we had a two-and-a-half week old baby,” Berry said. “I decided to do everything at once. I turned 40, a week later had the baby, two weeks later moved out here, and two weeks after that started this job.” She said it was “pregnancy adrenaline” that allowed her to accomplish everything at once.
But how does one get to informatics by way of anthropology?
“I was still planning to go to medical school,” Berry said of her decision to change degrees. “I took the MCAT.”
In the end, Berry decided that she wanted to seriously pursue anthropology. “I had an amazing anthropology professor that really inspired me,” she said. Berry attended graduate school at the University of New Mexico and received her Ph.D. in biological anthropology in 2011. While working on her doctorate, Berry held a position as the chief laboratory assistant for the Laboratory of Human Osteology at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at UNM, giving tours, processing skeletal remains, keeping inventories and taking part in excavations.