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Meet the Navy Lieutenant Who’s a ‘Rising Star’ in Health Care IT

Studio photograph of Navy Lt. Travis Kelley Navy Lt. Travis Kelley was recently recognized as a ‘Rising Star’ for the work he performed while serving as the chief information officer of DHA’s Infrastructure and Operations Division.

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Technology | Military Health System Transformation

Information Technology might seem “boring” to some people, but making sure that doctors, nurses and other health care providers across the Military Health System have working computers and a good network connection is essential to military readiness and daily operations.

That’s what makes the job of Navy Lt. Travis Kelley so important. Kelley, who served as the chief information officer for the Defense Health Agency’s Infrastructure and Operations Division, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is a key player in making sure the entire IT infrastructure works as intended, 24/7.

In short, he led a team that provided high-level support to the IT workers at help desks and service centers around the globe – a mission critical job for the entire DHA. He was also instrumental in standing up the agency’s current network operations center and IT acquisition process.

“As the CIO, I was in charge of the operations for the local IT support, basically providing the customer service and troubleshooting, overseeing the network and overseeing cybersecurity,” explains Kelley.

“We provided the IT support to the folks that provide the IT support to the Military Health System.”

Kelley’s work in helping to transform the DHA’s IT support system and processes from 2019 to 2020 recently earned him a prestigious award. He was among 10 ‘Rising Stars’ from throughout the federal IT field who were recognized last month for having an outsized impact on the field early in their careers. The list of ‘Rising Stars’ was published by Federal Computer Week and other Washington, D.C.-area federal information technology trade publications.

These days, Kelley serves as the deputy chief information officer at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in San Diego.

At DHA, Kelley said the day-to-day operations of his post included “making sure all the people we worked with and for were taken care of from an IT perspective.”

This included the basics like making sure that their computers worked, that they had a reliable network to connect to, taking trouble calls, creating tickets and doing advanced troubleshooting for more serious issues. It also included maintaining accreditation, network risk management, and software updates.

After a year or so at DHA, Kelley’s hard work and success was noticed. Kelley was asked to fill more of an “executive officer”-type role within the division, where he was tasked with standing up a network operations center for the entre MHS/DHA, which is now known as the Global Network Operations Center.

“The essentials of what that operations center does is monitoring the entire DHA network, which covers the whole military medical community, and providing that IT infrastructure to all of the military treatment facilities and other ‘lines of business’ across the world,” he explained.

The operations center, which officially stood up in 2019, arose out of a need to monitor issues and remediate them as soon as possible, while keeping those impacted and senior leadership informed.

Kelley also had the additional duty of action officer for the newly created Integrated Project Team, known as an IPT, to decide which software, hardware and contractors would be used within the realm of IT for the DHA.

“As the action officer, I was instrumental in developing, coordinating and participating in all of the activities associated with the acquisition of enterprise IT services,” he said.

The IPT started from the ground up. When developing a team, Kelley said it was essential to have people with real-world, MTF-level IT experience.

Market research was also pivotal. “The whole goal of market research is to find out what’s out there, learn from others that have done similar things, find out what’s innovative, what the future looks like, what are people trying to do,” Kelley said.

“We ended up talking to a bunch of different federal agencies, military services, state governments and industry partners and we accumulated all of that into a strategy for us to standardize and operate.”

The team presented their strategy to DHA’s senior Infrastructure and Operations Division leadership, and they agreed to move forward with their plan.

The IPT’s work was a large part of what DHA’s Chief Information Officer Pat Flanders and Director of Engineering and Technology Transformation Tom Hines discussed as part of their presentation, “Making IT Boring Again – Priorities, Progress, and Pandemics,” at the Health Information and Management System Society’s annual conference in Las Vegas in August.

Within the military, where personnel are moving from facility to facility on a regular basis, standardization is extremely important.

“The goal is to standardize our processes, procedures, tools and everything else associated with IT across the Military Health System so that a doctor, nurse, corpsman, medic or physician’s assistant goes in, and they get the same level of service at any military treatment facility and also, when they move from one facility to another, it’s seamless,” he said.

Kelley said the whole point of making IT “boring” is to provide IT services that are so consistent and standard that the customer – users at MTFs in this case – don’t even need to think about it.

Kelley is a native of Conyers, Georgia, and actually studied Business and Marketing as an undergraduate at Valdosta State University. In 2012, he was accepted into the Health Services Collegiate Program and upon completion of two masters degrees at Marymount University, one in Healthcare Management and another in Information Technology, he was commissioned as a Naval Officer.

“When I joined the Navy, I joined as an officer in the Medical Service Corps and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a degree in IT,’ and they saw that and put me into two information technology roles within the Medical Service Corps,” culminating in where he is today.

At the end of the day, Kelley said he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the work that earned him this award without his whole team’s support.

“I had a great team at the DHA, working for me and above me,” said Kelley. “All of the leaders that I worked for placed their confidence in me that I could work on these large-scale projects and, to me, that’s very humbling.”

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