Digital health records pioneer Albert Woodard chose mathematics over basketball
Woodard chose mathematics over basketball. An internship with IBM turned into a full-time job as a computer troubleshooter, Woodard told emerging technology leaders during the Catapulting Innovation Showcase at Georgia State University.
By age 26, he had launched his own firm, Business Computer Applications Inc., which 37 years later has more than 200 employees.
Two of his recent hires remind him of himself. "I recruited two young men from Georgia State, both African-American, 22 and 23, who have put together a software program which will bring us $1 million per year in recurring income from licensing," Woodard noted.
He is among the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology gathering on Jan. 15, 2013 for Innovation and Equity 2013: Keeping America First in Technology: Public Innovation and Supplier Diversity in Washington, D.C. The founder of the nation's largest black-owned software development firm told Innovation & Equity 2012 that initiatives which open the door for black-owned businesses must be continued and expanded if the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to be realizedWoodard, President and CEO of Business Computer Applications of Atlanta, took note that the symposium for the 12th annual 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology was taking place on Jan. 15, King's birthday.
"None of us would be in this position except for the struggle of the civil rights movement," said Woodard. "To be faithful to those who waged that fight, we must insure that affirmative action programs continue."
BCA deployed one of the country’s first Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems and built the world’s largest telemedicine system outside the US Department of Defense’s military EMR. Under his guidance BCA became a major provider of health IT products and services to Atlanta’s Grady Hospital System, several federally qualified community health centers and a large number of private practices. The company also has a 15-year long relationship with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that was just extended for an additional 10 years.
Woodard praised BCA advisory board members like former HHS Secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher for helping the company succeed. He also took note of fellow panelist Dr. Gerald Boyd, President of DB Consulting Group in Silver Spring, MD as a pioneer for African-American technology companies. "It is an honor to meet you, Dr. Boyd," said Woodard.
African-American IT companies gained $2.7 billion in federal contracts during the 2010-11 fiscal year on more than 14,000 bids, according to Silicon Ceiling 11: Equal Opportunity and High Technology. However, black vendors only received 1.2 percent of the $500 billion in federal procurement. Blacks own seven percent of all U.S. companies. Achieving a seven percent level of IT spending could significantly expand job creation by black cutting edge companies.
One method to increase the scale and job creation impact of procurement with black firms is to expand Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Research contracts which fund the development of new products, like the telemedicine systems developed by BCA.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act, more than $50 billion is being allocated to the development of a universal electronic medical records system, a labor-intensive and locally-centered process which can spawn the growth and creation of thousands of companies.
A Piece of the Pie: State of Black Business, eighth edition, targets health IT as the leading opportunity to grow large numbers of cutting edge jobs in black-owned communities. Health related professions are already the largest source of employment for blacks and health-oriented firms are the largest industry sector of African-American owned businesses.
Local communities can use the growth of BCA as a model for developing similar enterprises to build the infrastructure to link medical offices and hospitals using local workers.
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