It’s a work day, so you can find Cam Johnson, the UNLV School of Medicine Director of Information Technology (IT) Operations, where he usually is just before the sun comes up -- in his office.
“Coming in at 6 a.m. is what I think it takes to get the job done,” says Johnson. “The two hours between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. are so important to getting ready for the day and ensuring that I have things in order for me and my team.”
In today’s modern medical school environment, Johnson notes that IT must be practically everywhere, providing a portfolio of services and capabilities that support education, research, and clinic operations for faculty, students and staff.
Professors are miked so they can be heard. Each class is recorded so students have lectures available for review. At UNLV Medicine, the clinical arm of the school, data entry is critical -- doctors, for instance, need access to electronic medical records (EMR). On and on it goes for IT and the medical school. Computers, telephone systems, data storage, video conferencing -- in so many ways, IT really is
“We’ve come a long way in two-and-a-half years -- our team has worked well together,” says Johnson, whose staff of 12 IT professionals serves the more than 1000 employees of the medical school. “I want the IT department to be a partner and enable organizational transformation. Where we come in is helping to make IT easier to use and maximize the value. As the team grows, there will be more opportunities for this to occur.”
While Johnson is reluctant to talk about his accomplishments -- he stresses repeatedly that IT can only work well through a team approach -- Wonda Riner, the UNLV School of Medicine Executive Director for Information Technology, points out that Johnson, in addition to ensuring daily IT operations of the school are attended to, “has also overseen many large scale projects that would likely have failed without his attention to detail and project management skills. During the first half of 2018, Cam oversaw the clinic and infrastructure upgrades needed to support the implementation of Epic (healthcare software) as the EMR for UNLV Medicine. These upgrades included network upgrades and configuration changes, and new computers and printers to meet the Epic requirements. Also occurring during this time was a complete upgrade of the telephone infrastructure to replace an end-of-life system and migrate all users to the Cox Managed Phone System we have today in all of our leased locations.”
Johnson, who as a curious youngster stripped down his grandfather’s John Deere riding mower to see how it worked -- unfortunately, he didn’t know how to put it back together -- has, as an adult, repeatedly been no stranger to figuring out how to put together big IT projects.
In 2016, the then network operations center manager for the UNLV Office of Information Technology (OIT) played a key role in organizing resources for the IT support needs for the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Network services -- both wired and wireless were provided, with 11 miles of cable running from the Thomas & Mack Center, where the debate took place, to Cox Pavilion, where the media center was located, and into the parking lot, where broadcasters had set up their temporary headquarters. Once infrastructure was in place, OIT personnel were on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly for the campaigns and the 5000 members of the national and international media that converged on Las Vegas for the debate.
The son of a now retired Air Force career man who often moved early in his career to different duty stations across Europe and the United States, Johnson, who was born in Spain, says the spark for his interest in IT came at the age of 13, when his father ordered parts from a magazine for a computer they built together in 1988 -- a time in America when only about 15 percent of American households had personal computers, compared to about 90 percent today.
“Even then I liked the way computers were evolving, always changing,” says Johnson.
Still, he says as a teen growing up in Las Vegas he thought of computers and IT only as a hobby, not as a possible vocation. “I liked the tinkering."