Profiles in IT: Melissa Thurber—project manager, customer advocate

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Melissa Thurber is a project manager for the HITS Software Delivery Team. (Chris Hedly)

Melissa Thurber, M.B.A., was recently interviewed about her work on the Software Delivery Team. The Health Information Technology & Services (HITS) project manager began her career in IT working in the digital marketing space. Thurber understands what customers are looking for, making her contributions to healthcare IT all the more impactful.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities.

I work with an outstanding team of designers and developers to build custom software that solves critical needs and allows for major advancements across Michigan Medicine. As the liaison between stakeholders and the team, I help to articulate the vision and then work with my team to design and build a solution.

How long have you worked in IT?

I spent several years managing digital marketing campaigns before transitioning into product management for search marketing platforms. Managing digital marketing campaigns for fortune 500 companies can be both exciting and challenging. Customers are under immense pressure to meet sales targets. In terms of customer’s needs, the role of a trusted advisor, although difficult to achieve, is required to maintain a healthy relationship and achieve success.

As my career evolved over the past ten years, I found myself the most comfortable acting as the bridge between “The Business” and IT. My career started as a search marketing analyst. Since then, and before joining U-M a little over two years ago, I joined several digital marketing startup companies. I gradually transitioned from an analyst using custom marketing software to the product manager responsible for platform product development.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

My team is a tight-knit unit. We utilize an agile approach and the scrum software development framework to deliver amazing software on a continuous basis. Team self-reflection is a big part of our process. These methods plus hard work have turned my team into a well-oiled machine, and I am very proud.

Tell us something people would be surprised to learn about your job.

Every product we build is like a little startup company. A project can originate in support of Michigan Medicine’s missions, research, patient care, and education. When we get a new project, we start by becoming subject matter experts. That is, learning as much as we can about the customer’s current state and needs. From there we design, develop, test, create user guides, conduct training workshops, and provide support to our customers.

How does the work you do impact the Michigan Medicine community (e.g., increased staff efficiency, saved the institution money, directly improved patients’ lives, etc.)?

I’ve had the privilege of working on several highly-impactful projects, including a mobile application that seeks to understand the high rate of depression in medical interns and, for the Medical School, several applications that facilitate admissions, grant management, and applicant-to-alumni tracking and program analysis. I’m proud of this work! Learn more below.

Intern Health Study Mobile Application

We built the mobile application to take Dr. Srijan Sen’s Intern Health Study to the next level. This important work seeks to understand why such a large number of medical interns (28%) experience depression.

Prior to my team’s involvement, the Sen Lab was limited to collecting data from interns using periodic email surveys. We built a mobile application that transformed the study and collected daily—and even real time—data points. The Intern Health Study mobile application collects daily surveys, tracks location, integrates with FitBit. It was a very big step forward for the study.

University of Michigan Medical School, Programs in Biomedical Studies (PIBS)

This project actually had two sub-projects. They are:

  1. Training Grant Data Mart: The U-M Medical School receives approximately $5 million per year from the NIH for training grants, which requires a massive amount of highly complex reporting. Training grant administrators used to collect much of this data manually. My team built a training grant data mart to source and provide this information saving them hundreds of hours of time.
  2. PIBS Interview Weekends: My team developed software with a sophisticated Residency and Fellowship Match algorithm to pair hundreds of candidates with faculty, as well as produce itineraries for interview weekends. Our work simplified a very complicated process.

University of Michigan Medicine School Faculty Performance Program

This strategic priority for Michigan Medicine consists of several software development projects. The goal is create a stable and coordinated suite of tools to support the entire faculty career cycle and provide data that empowers leadership in decision making. This initiative began in late 2017 and focuses on faculty planning and soon on supporting faculty hiring activities. This is expected to be a multi-year initiative for Software Delivery.


“Profiles in IT” is a new series of stories that will highlight members of the Michigan IT community and their contributions to the university mission. If you know an “unsung hero” in the Michigan IT community, drop us a note.

D. Stephanie Dascola, HITS Communications
Author: D. Stephanie Dascola, HITS Communications

Stephanie is a brand/product analyst for the Michigan Medicine department of Health Information Technology & Services. She focuses on the education, research, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Contact her at sdascola@med.umich.edu.

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