Meet Joe Burkhart

Lead Clinical Abstractor, Joe Burkhart, speaks to how he arrived at Syaspe, what makes this team great, and the exciting possibilities ahead.

2020/09 4 min read


What brought you to Syapse?

I first heard of Syapse from a peer who’d just started the Abstraction team at Syapse. I was working with her in a hospital setting and Syapse recruited her. I was officially the second manual abstraction employee at Syapse, we created the department!

How did you get into Manual Abstraction?

That is a wonderful question because very few know about the cancer registry or abstraction work. Everybody has a really interesting story about how they got into abstraction. For me, I was originally going to college for pharmacy school. I took organic chemistry and thought, “No, this is probably not for me.” But I did find another program at the University of Pittsburgh called health information management. It was all working around medical records and data and one of the courses for the program was a cancer registry class. Not many programs have the option for a cancer registry class. So that’s how I first learned about it. I obtained a job right out of school working in another type of registry, an immunization registry. Alongside was cancer registry and I’m like, “Yeah this is where I need to be.” I love it because I learn something new almost every day.

How did Abstraction become such a happy, successful team?

It has a lot to do with the recruiters and the referral process that we have at Syapse. With our abstraction program, we need to have a certification (CTR — Certified Tumor Registrar). So we know everybody is knowledgeable and proficient because they’ve earned that credential. After that, we look for people that add to our culture. I think that’s been a major accomplishment of growing our team. We have cohesiveness even though we’re all over the country. We really share and celebrate successes. Now that we’ve started more specialized projects for our customers, everybody really celebrates all the wonderful things that we’re doing. So every success is recognized and celebrated within our team.

How would you describe your job to a relative?

In truth, I don’t think even my parents know exactly what I do. I tell them I’m working with cancer data to improve outcomes. Basically, I tell them that we are providing data insights to our customers. Our customers then look at outcomes and data that we provide so they can improve patient outcomes in the future.

What has surprised you most since joining Syapse?

Wow, a few things. First is that everyone is super motivated by the mission and vision. It always impresses me that everybody is willing to work extra hard to make sure that we have the best products and the best data possible for our customers. The level of motivation and the excitement from everyone at Syapse is amazing. It was shocking to me when I first joined a year and a half ago. That is number one. Number two, all the employees at Syapse are super, super knowledgeable, really intelligent, and really good at what they do. I love getting to know folks and learn about what they do and their backgrounds because everybody that I can see really excels in their positions.

What are you most excited about in the coming year?

Professionally, growing more. Growing with our customers and diversifying the projects, and the different tasks that we do. We look at the data every single day, and that aspect of the job can be repetitive and monotonous but, when I look at all the data we’ve abstracted and how it feeds our product, that is super amazing and exciting. What is also super exciting about what we do and about Syapse is that in the cancer registry industry, the data we collect usually sits for a couple of years before anybody looks at it. That satisfaction to see the results of your work is just amazing.

Lighting Round

If you could become an expert in anything instantly, what would it be and why?

A pilot! I’d love to be able to fly. Commercial pilot. I’d love to see different areas of the world.

Is there anything new you’re learning right now?

So, my husband is in online college right now, actually, for the same thing I’m doing (CTR). He is taking an online course in oral communication. Being the introvert that I am, I’m basically taking the course with him and putting all the tips and tricks into the back of my head.

COVID aside, if you travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

Oh, gosh. Anywhere. Most likely Hawaii. It’s been on my bucket list and I haven’t made it yet.

If you could switch roles with anyone at Syapse for a day, what role would you choose and why?

I would love to be a part of the commercial team. I’d love to be able to hear exactly what our customers are wanting and trying to get new customers on board would be a pretty cool job.