FedHealthIT Interview: Sara Byrd, FedTechCares

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

by David Blackburn


Originally published July 14, 2015 in the Summer 2015 Edition of FedHealthIT Magazine.

There are seemingly dozens of Federal IT events every day around DC, but FedTechCares (FTC), a new non-profit, aims to shake things up a bit with an interesting approach to bring Federal IT leaders together in support of a great mission. We had a chance recently to connect with one of the co-Founders, Sara Byrd, to learn more about FTC and some of their upcoming plans.


Co-Founders Todd Van Haaren and Sara Byrd both come from the Federal IT community. Todd has been working in federal, state or local IT for over 25 years. Currently, he is the Director of Business Development at the BITS Group Sara has been working in Federal IT for nearly 10 years, with a deep philanthropic background across local communities. She serves as an Advisory Board member for Best Buddies International, Capital Region and leads business development efforts for the Informatics Applications Group (TIAG).


FHIT: Can you tell me a bit more about FedTechCares and what drove you two to start this non-profit?


Sara Byrd: I have always enjoyed supporting charitable organizations outside of my day job, and a while back I got involved in with the group #MatchyHour. This group does a great job of combining a networking and a happy hour with philanthropy by having a sponsor match donations made at the happy hour, with all the funds going to a charity chosen for that event.


Todd and I know that companies are willing to pay big money to sponsor events when they can meet and hear from IT leaders, but no one had really tapped into the desire that many of our government and industry colleagues have to give back.


We spent a lot of time talking about the best way to do this, we socialized the concept with a number of people we look up to and everyone was very receptive, so FedTechCares was founded.


FTC curates charities and cultivates sponsors to host events that bring together Federal IT leaders with industry technology leaders and focus a discussion around a topic, such as a major program need, a hot industry issue, or new technology. 100% of the net proceeds from FTC events go to the charity.


FHIT: Is FTC aligned with a charity already?


SB: The charity we select will actually change from event to event. We use a set of criteria to evaluate charities, but the focus is really on finding those underserved charities that have a great mission, but just lack the resources and reach. Four our inaugural event on July 21st, we hav aligned with a great organization, Healwell. Healwell's mission is to improve quality of life for people living with acute, chronic and terminal illness through hands-on integrative therapies, education and research regardless of ability to pay. They actually interface with EHRs - pretty amazing stuff.


FHIT: Is FTC going to be exclusively focused on Federal Health IT, or will it include a broader agenda?


SB: The focus will definitely be broader than Federal Health IT. Todd and I are naturally drawn to health as that has been a professional focus for both of us over the last few years. While it will be easier for some of the initial events to maintain this focus given that our relationships ten to be heavier in that community, we are already in planning for our second Federal IT event that is not specifically health related. More to come on that soon.

FTC curates charities and cultivates sponsors to host events that bring together Federal IT leaders with industry technology leaders and focus a discussion around a topic, such as a major program need, a hot industry issue, or new technology. 100% of the net proceeds from FTC events go to the charity.

FHIT: Can you share a bit more about your first event? When, where, topic?


SB: We are very excited that we have a great lineup for our first event. The topic is Health Interoperability, which is a big issue that all federal agencies are dealing with. The event is a panel style and includes Elaine Hunolt, Co-Director of the Interoperability Office at Veterans Health Administration; and Mark Scrimshire, an Entrepreneur In Residence supporting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on some of their activities around Blue Button. The event is going to be held in Arlington on the morning of July 21st. You can check it out and even register at www.FedTechCares.org.

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