UW HIMT Graduate Finds Passion in Career Change from Military to Healthcare

Kaitlynn Martin April 10, 2019
Justin Rathkamp posing in front of a military mural.

UW HIMT graduate, Justin Rathkamp, RHIA, has always been motivated to help people. After 9/11, he paused his studies at Marquette University to enlist in the US Army, serving on active duty for more than three years. Transitioning back to his civilian life in Wisconsin came with challenges. Justin watched firsthand as many of his fellow veterans struggled with mental and physical issues brought on by the trauma spent overseas. These experiences and his drive for service continued to influence Justin as he navigated his next career move.

After completing his degree in economics at Marquette, Justin found work in the retail world. For seven years, he managed various stores and was known as the “fixer”—traveling to different locations to pinpoint struggling areas and resolve issues.


While working in his retail roles, Justin found that the long workdays took too much time away from his young family. He knew something had to change. Inspired by his wife Mariah, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology (HIMT) online degree program, and driven to improve the health outcomes of returning service members in his community, Justin was eager to see where a career in HIMT could take him.

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“I made a conscientious decision,” Justin said. “Although I was working 50 to 60 hours a week, I wanted to go back to school full time, so I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin HIMT program. I did this because I thought, you know what—I could be the change in this scenario, and I wanted to help patients have a better future.”

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Finding His Place in Healthcare

Shortly before becoming a UW HIMT graduate in 2017, Justin received a job offer as an HIM Analyst at UW Health. Later, in October 2018, he took the position of Supervisory Health System Specialist-Veteran Experience Officer at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs located in Madison, Wisconsin. He currently oversees the Patient Advocate team and runs the patient experience aspect of healthcare for the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital and affiliated regional clinics. Additionally, Justin sat for and passed the Registered Health and Information Administrator (RHIA) credential exam on his first attempt despite having a limited healthcare background.

You could say that Justin has successfully reached his goal. Today, he is able to spend more time with his family, and instead of finding solutions in the retail setting, his knack for problem solving benefits the quality of patients’ lives.

“A clinician can bring in his or her medical background,” Justin said. “But, I believe I can bring in that extra health information approach to the top to be able to make changes in the healthcare system that makes our world better.”

Even though his only previous work in healthcare was being a patient himself, Justin is confident that the UW HIMT program will help him stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues in the VA system as a unified force that positively transforms future care. He believes diversity in educational and career backgrounds brings different—and needed—ideas to the fore.

“The sky’s the limit once you get through the programs,” Justin said. “And what you will learn, who you will learn it from, and who you will learn it with, will leave a lasting impact on your life and your career.”

UW Health Information Management & Technology is a collaboration of UW System campuses. UW HIMT graduate Justin earned his degree from UW-Green Bay.

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