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Jim Agin – Running the Numbers at Virginia Garcia

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For most of his career Jim Agin was a Johnny Appleseed of the technology industry, an itinerant planting himself at a succession of technology companies. Eventually, though, he grew tired of the shifts and uncertainty in the tech industry, so he decided to make a career change and explore working for a non-profit.

Jim quickly encountered a common conundrum for people looking to move into a new career. “If you haven’t been in the industry, you don’t have the experience to work in a new field, but you can’t get the experience unless somebody will hire you,” Agin said.

Then an appealing Encore Fellowship position opened up. Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, headquartered in Hillsboro, was looking for a Lean project manager who could optimize how Virginia Garcia does its work.

Virginia Garcia provides health care, including primary care, dental, mental health, and pharmaceutical services in a culturally sensitive way and in the patient’s language to about 35,000 people annually who are not getting those services through regular channels. Serving patients in Washington and Yamhill Counties who speak 58 languages, it’s a challenging task.

One of Agin’s assignments in that position was to help determine a schedule for expanded open hours at Virginia Garcia’s Beaverton clinic in connection with a project focused on reducing unnecessary Emergency Department (ED) visits. Six weeks after he started as a Fellow in November 2011, Virginia Garcia hired him as a data analyst, allowing him to stay on as a Fellow for six months and then transition to a full-time job at Virginia Garcia.

“He was fabulous,” said Lynn Baker, Virginia Garcia’s Process and Systems Improvement Director, explaining why the non-profit hired Agin so quickly. “He just took the ball and ran with it,” she said. “Then after we posted the data analyst position, I got a call from our CFO. ‘What are you thinking?’ she said. ‘You need to just get Jim to take that job.” Baker called Agin and he said yes immediately.

“Data helps you make decisions, “Baker said. “It was really clear from Jim’s analysis that we had a huge number of patients who just went once to the ED, who were assigned to us by Medicaid Managed Care Organizations and weren’t established with us yet. Then Jim’s data showed we had a few people who had a high utilization of the ED. The conclusion was we had to focus on our high utilizers as well as get our new patients established as soon as they’re assigned to us. The cost savings from just that one small effort were incredible.”

Agin continues to work on Lean projects, including financial and clinical reports and team-based preventative care. “Jim has done a great job working with the state and the data analysts at the other two Virginia Garcia clinics,” Baker said.

“From a non-profit’s perspective, being able to have the opportunity to have someone come in as an Encore Fellow who has years of industry experience is wonderful,” Baker added. “Whether its data analysis, marketing, or other fields, we are really suffering in the non-profit world. We could really use that expertise. I thank goodness the Encore Fellows program is there.”

Based on Agin’s superlative performance, Baker is contemplating bringing on more three more Encore Fellows and is looking at more potential openings down the road.

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