STLCC-Forest Park Alum Finds Groove Through HIM
Thursday, April 8, 2021
A chance conversation with a St. Louis Community College receptionist propelled Jackie Wagner into a profession that, just three years in, has already proven successful.
Wagner, 39, serves as a health information technician supervisor for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. It’s her second employer since graduating from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park with a health information management degree in 2018.
She said her time at the College was instrumental in establishing herself in the field, especially the guidance of the program’s coordinator.
“Dr. (Patricia) Sherman, the way she taught the program, everything and anything, really prepared me as to what to expect in the real world,” Wagner said. “She was a very good mentor for HIM students and I still try to keep in contact with her today.”
While she’s enjoying her nascent career, it’s a far cry from what she thought she’d be doing with her life.
Wagner had long dreamed of serving in the military, and at 22 she joined the Army. She eventually became a mechanic who worked on trucks and Humvees and was on her way to a lifetime career in the service.
But physical injuries sustained after jumping from airplanes and post-traumatic stress disorder from a tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan forced Wagner to reroute her future. What was supposed to be a 25- to 30-year span spent in the military became an eight-year involvement that ended before Wagner was prepared.
Upon getting her medical discharge from the Army, Wagner didn’t know what direction she should go.
“I had to find something to do with my life,” she said. “I was just trying to figure out what to do next.”
She returned to her hometown of St. Louis and registered at STLCC-Forest Park to gain her general education classes with an eye on becoming a nurse. While studying, she also held a part-time patient registration position at a local hospital until 2015.
It was during this period she realized that while she wanted to stay in health care, she didn’t want to serve in a patient-facing capacity. While talking one day to her father, Kurt Wagner - a STLCC campus police officer at the South County campus - about her future, a campus police receptionist overheard and suggested Jackie look into the HIM program.
That chance encounter proved life-altering.
Using her GI Bill to study at the College, Wagner managed not only to go to school full time but also give birth to a daughter, Lexi, in 2016. She said STLCC helped her balance her busy life, which was the only way she was able to earn her degree.
“It was pretty good because I was able to pick my schedule,” she said. “And the HIM program was mostly at night and online, so it was a lot easier to navigate my schedule.”
And then there was Sherman.
“She’s like the best. She’s the one who really encourages the students to look at what’s out there and gives us the reality that it’s not easy to get a position like mine,” Wagner said. “But if she could be put in for teacher of the year somewhere, she should win the teacher of the millennium.”