The news of Kathleen Frawley’s death this past week hit hard. Kathleen and I went back many years, dating to the early 1990s when I first got involved in the health care industry. I had joined the American Health Information Management Association as an editor and Kathleen was heading up the Washington DC office. This was the pre-HIPAA era, but privacy and data transaction regulations were just beginning to brew.

I will always remember her as a tenacious, dedicated professional. She filed a regular column--on deadline and meeting required word counts to the letter (characteristics not universally shared among writers). She used the AHIMA journal to update the members on current and proposed legislation, which Kathleen monitored like a hawk, ever in search of implications for the HIM profession. At the time, AHIMA had an internal voice message system--this was the pre e-mail era mind you--that enabled staff to make voice recordings and distribute them as needed across a network of staff and volunteers. Kathleen’s messages were incredible, both for their depth and utter devotion to the details of legislation. Sure some of the messages--I remember one which lasted a good 10 minutes--were exercises in overkill. We sometimes teased her about them--and she took it in good stride (Kathleen never let her law degree, a rarity among HIM staff, get in the way of a great sense of humor). But everyone respected her for the utter devotion with which she tackled her job.

Kathleen helped organize a symposium on data privacy and confidentiality. Our guest speaker was Arthur Ashe, the late tennis star whose personal health information had somehow been leaked to the press. Data privacy was just one issue that Kathleen championed. Most important, she was a champion of the then-emerging HIM profession--that moniker was new, having replaced the old ‘medical record’ identity dating to the era of paper charts and medical records librarians as they were once called.

In later years, I lost touch with Kathleen, as I had gravitated into trade journalism in the health I.T. space. Even after leaving her staff position at AHIMA, she continued to serve many volunteer roles at AHIMA, and what is sad is that she passed away during the middle of her term as the organization’s president. I know that was a role Kathleen had aspired to, and I’m sure she was gratified by the recognition, however brief.

About a year or two ago, Kathleen reached out to me via social media. She acknowledged the work I had done over the years in writing about health I.T.--and while I didn’t tell her at the time (but should have); much of the groundwork of my industry knowledge was laid during my years at AHIMA. Just reading and editing Kathleen’s column was my first step in gaining currency with the complex issues facing health care.

Thank you, Kathleen, for your remarkable contributions not only to me as a writer but to the industry overall.

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