Guest: Karen Moulder
Guest Bio: Karen Moulder was the first woman to be hired in the Brownsville, Texas Fire Department in 1983. Her tomboyish nature and single mother circumstance led her to this fascinating and dangerous career which lasted a little over ten years. Her career involved protecting lives, property, and educating the public on fire safety. She entered a man’s world back when few women did and became a role model for other women. Karen went back to college and majored in business after a car accident ended her firefighting career. She went on to work managing a physician’s office where she obtained her certification in medical billing. She later moved across the country from Texas to Massachusetts where she started her own medical billing company. She now lives there with her five children and two grandchildren. Her Book is entitled “Burning Barriers”
Karen Moulder talks about how she transitioned from being a Firefighter to a Medical Billing business owner.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, so glad that you could join us for today. We were talking in other segments with Karen Moulder, the first woman to be hired as a fire fighter in the Brownsville Texas back in 1983. Her career spans a little over 10 years but an auto accident changed her entire life. How are you doing today Karen?
Karen Moulder: I’m getting by day to day.
N: Getting by day to day, kicking but not too high.
N: We were talking before about your life as a firefighter in Brownsville, Texas. You’re the author of the book “Burning Barriers” where you talked about your life as the first woman to be hired as a firefighter for the Brownsville Texas fire department back in 1983 and you went onto being successful as a firefighter, breaking barriers for women that wanted to follow but your career ended abruptly one afternoon when you were on your way home, yeah?
K: Yes. That old saying about getting in a car accident a block from your house, well that was true for me. I was in the car accident with my two younger kids.
N: Now this accident not only challenged you physically, prompting you to change careers, but it also cost you to look at life in general in a different way, didn’t it?
K: Yeah it totally changed my life because it was a career ending accident so I was no longer able to be a firefighter so that pushed me in a direction of having to go back to college and find a whole different career. And not only the career but because of the accident, it caused me to change my views on life and what’s important in my life and then also it changed me in the fact that, well I live with pain every day. So it makes you learn how to deal with that as well.
N: After having been with the fire department for so long and having put up with so much stuff and broken down barriers and had several successes throughout your career, were there any options for you to work still within the fire department maybe in an administrative role or something like that? Or was that something that was offered to you or was it you’re just ready to get rid of the fire department altogether?
K: No, that wasn’t something that was offered to me. I was just basically told which I’m not sure if this is the case or was a fact or they just didn’t want me there anymore but I was basically told there were no positions available at the time and I either quit or move on.
N: Uh huh. Did you consider recovering from injuries in the car accident, taken some time off and then coming back to the fire department or did you decide the same day that “You know what, I really got to look at my life and try to turn some things around?”
K: Actually I did after a while, because I have gone back to college for business and there came a time where they were hiring a new fire chief so I put in my application for that of course I didn’t get it. But I did put in my application because I did have…
N: Enough experience yeah?
K: Experience for, yeah. Education in business and the business aspect because the fire chief is now on administrative area. So I thought you know that would be a good change if I could do that but that didn’t happen for me.
N: So you’re going back to school, you’ve got your degree in business, you apply to become the next fire chief of course as you say that didn’t happen. What was your next step?
K: Well actually I didn’t know what was gonna happen but my sister in-law’s husband was a doctor so she had asked me if I could go and work with them for a while and help them get there practice more organized and running better. So I just went in basically it’s gonna be temporary just to help them get more organized but it eventually got to the point where I have learned so much that they wanted me to run their practice. So I got into learning about medical billing and pretty much everything there is to learn about running a medical practice.
N: So you were basically the office manager at your brother-in-law’s medical practice and I guess your degree in business really turned out to be God sent. They wanted you to actually take the range and run their practice as the business manager?
K: Yes, they did. That just kind of worked out really great.
N: So that’s what you did. You were the office manager for a medical practice. How long did you do that?
K: I managed their practice for I want to say 4-5 years and then I moved on up to Massachusetts. I decided to move to Massachusetts to be closer to my older daughter and the grandkids. I just couldn’t see life without living next to my grandkids. So I picked up the rest of my kids and moved up here and got a job at a hospital and I was supervising a clinic of 12 positions there in Western Massachusetts.
N: Okay so now you move to Massachusetts from Texas and you’re in a hospital. Now you’re not the hospital administrator, but you say you’re managing, doing more healthcare management with a practice of clinicians?
N: Are you still working for the hospital?
K: I am not working for the hospital, I’m eventually with a company is basically Software Company that is for medical billing and I went to work with them for about two years which is where I met one of the doctors that I do the billing for, actually two of the doctors that I do the billing for now. And it was just something that was kind of like time for me to do, I was trying to see if I can do it on my own, go on my own and do the medical billing. And it just worked out great and I have been doing this now for about ten years.
N: Ten years.
K: Although it’s a lot to learn and it’s a lot to keep up on. It’s really rewarding and a rewarding career.
N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. It’s been our pleasure to have in studio returning guest Karen Moulder, was hired as the first female firefighter in Brownsville Texas back in 1983. It’s been about 10 years fighting battle in a male dominated career field, fought lawsuits and affected some change in the fire department there in Brownsville. However, an auto accident one afternoon changed her life and her outlook and she is now a medical billing specialist in Massachusetts. We’ve been here talking about her transition from the firefighter life to medical billing and some of the things that happened to her on her way to becoming a medical billing expert. It’s been great having you here with us today Karen.
K: Thank you for having me.
N: Transcripts of this program are available at hpr.fm and also at healthprofessionalradio.com.au.