A Growing Nonclinical Field

Dr. Christian Zouain is a foreign medical graduate who used networking to land his first job as a CDI expert.


He graduated from medical school in the Dominican Repubic. He worked first as a medical assistant and a medical scribe because he had not completed residency and was not licensed.

Christian realized that he was not alone in his decision to pursue a non-clinical path after attending the SEAK NonClinical Careers Conference. He was inspired not to give up on his quest.

He looked for his next opportunity and landed a job doing hospital case management and utilization review. That enabled him to build a network of medical colleagues. And he began to consider non-clinical career options.

He discovered that clinical documentation improvement (CDI) was a growing field that needed healthcare professionals. He enrolled in a clinical documentation improvement (CDI) and ICD-10 coding course. The course addressed how complete and accurate documentation impacts all areas of health care.

Once he decided on the CDI career path, Christian started to get involved with professional associations, such as the ACDIS. That led him to educational courses addressing CDI.

Our Sponsor

This podcast is made possible by the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program offered by the Haslam College of Business. You’ll remember that I interviewed Dr. Kate Atchley, the Executive Director of the program, in Episode #25 of this podcast.

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Networking Using LinkedIn

To make this career change, and become a CDI expert, Christian did the following:

  • took advantage of what he was learning, and of the ACDIS, and completed a certifying program in ICD-10 and clinical documentation;
  • used LinkedIn to follow hospitals’ human resources (HR) departments and connect with CDI professionals;
  • attended a recruitment meeting for physicians which led to his first job as a CDI expert.

He's an excellent example of how effective networking is.

Typical Day

Christian works regular office hours Monday through Friday. He and his colleagues split up the cases to review each morning. Then they contact physicians and other practitioners. And they suggest changes to the medical record that will better reflect each patient's clinical picture.

What really caught my attention was the contribution that accurate documentation brought to the process of health care.

Christian Zouain

When he started in CDI, his hospital was still using paper charts, which slowed the querying process down. Now that electronic medical records have been universally adopted, it's much easier to communicate with physicians. That has streamelined Christian's job as a CDI expert immensely.

Physicians Prefer Physician CDI Experts

Christian now works much more collegially with physicians. He knows that they appreciate his help with documentation. Physicians believe that he understands the pressures they work under better than a nurse or medical records clerk.

He thoroughly enjoys his work. The physicians appreciate the help with the arcane documentation rules. And the organization benefits with better payments, and improved risk adjusted quality measures.

He also enjoys the support of the CEO and CFO at his hospital. And that support makes his job easier and more fulfilling.

Optimizing Opportunities

For those interested in a career as a CDI expert, Christian recommends you join the ACDIS and enroll in an ICD-10 coding course. This will familiarize you with useful concepts and guidelines. As Christian can attest, networking is very important, too.



CDI is a field that involves continuous learning. You have to stay updated, continue to read, go to conferences, and learn from others CDI experts.

And new types of CDI jobs are developing each day. There are now opportunities as a CDI physician advisor in:

  • hospital systems,
  • outpatient clinics,
  • large consulting firms that serve hospitals, and,
  • small CDI start-ups.

Links for today's episode:

Dr. Christian Zouain
International Statistical Classification of Diseases
World Health Organization
John's Interview with Dr. Cesar Limjoco – 005
Dr. Cesar Limjoco on LinkedIn
ACDIS Apprenticeship Program

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.

I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

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