About AHA Central Office

AHA Central Office Staff

The AHA Central Office staff is comprised of highly skilled coding professionals with expertise in diagnosis and procedure codes, including ICD-9-CM, ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, HCPCS, and CPT-4 coding. Their experience ranges from urban teaching hospitals, physician practices and hospital systems, to community hospitals and review organizations.

In addition to being credentialed in Health Information Management, Health Information Technology, and/or coding, they are well represented in national healthcare coding organizations and frequently publish and speak on coding topics.


Karen Ayala, RHIT
Coding Specialist

Ms. Ayala has provided AHA Central Office with administrative support and customer service for over 25 years. Recently, she has taken the position of Coding Specialist at the AHA Central Office. In this role, she focuses on responding to requests for ICD-10 CM. She continues to serve as a contact for all Central Office coding queries. She also supplies professional guidance for the Coding Clinic educational quizzes. In addition to her RHIT credentialing, Ms. Ayala holds an Associate degree.


Denene M. Harper, RHIA
Senior Coding Consultant

With more than twenty years of experience as a coding consultant, Ms. Harper develops ancillary instructor materials for the ICD-10-CM/ICD-10-PCS Coding Handbook. Ms. Harper also researches and develops issues for the AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS Editorial Advisory Board. Previously, she managed the AHA coding video series.

Prior to joining AHA, Ms. Harper had experience as a hospital coder as well as in quality improvement at a health plan. In addition to her RHIA credentialing, she has a BS in Health Information Management. Ms. Harper is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Patricia D. Jones, RHIT
Coding Consultant

With almost seventeen years of experience, Ms.Jones responds to requests for HCPCS coding advice, and researches and develops content for the Coding Clinic for HCPCS. Prior to joining the Central Office, she was a specialist in physician outpatient and surgical coding for HCPCS where she coded for gastroenterology, urology, podiatry, neurology, allergy, ophthalmology, and musculoskeletal conditions. Prior to joining the AHA Central Office team, she had experience as both an outpatient surgical coder for hospitals and physicians groups as well as a CPT instructor.

Besides holding RHIT credentialing, Ms. Jones received an AS degree in Health Information Technology.


Diane Komar, RHIT
Coding Consultant

Ms. Komar has 8 years experience in her role as a coding consultant for both ICD-10-CM/PCS and HCPCS. At AHA Central Office, she focuses on responding to requests for ICD-10-CM/PCS coding advice, and researching and developing content for the Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS Editorial Advisory Board. In addition, Ms. Komar assists in the proposed revisions to Medically Unlikely Edits (MUE) and National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) edits.

Her previous experience includes multi-specialty physician inpatient, outpatient and surgical coding for HCPCS in academic medical centers. In addition to her RHIT credentialing, Ms. Komar holds an AS degree in Health Information Technology as well as a BS Degree.


Nelly Leon-Chisen, RHIA
Director, Coding and Classification & Executive Editor for AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS and AHA Coding Clinic for HCPCS

Ms. Leon-Chisen is responsible for direction and overall management of the Central Office on ICD-10-CM/PCS, the official United States clearinghouse on coding, sequencing, and reporting data items. She serves as the executive editor and oversees publication of the AHA Coding Clinic publications: AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS, and AHA Coding Clinic for HCPCS. She is also the author of the ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Coding Handbook.

In her official capacity, Leon-Chisen represents the AHA as one of the ICD Cooperating Parties involved in the development of the ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting. She also serves as staff to the AHA physician representative to the CPT Editorial Panel and is on the CPT Assistant’s Editorial Board.

Ms. Leon-Chisen has been an active participant in many committees that impact coding including: the Hospital Outpatient Payment Panel (formerly APC Advisory Panel), the HEDIS Coding User Panel, the National Quality Forum Coding Expert Panel, the Outpatient Medicare Technical Advisory Group and the ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee. In addition, she has represented AHA members at the CPT-5 Project Advisory Group, ICD-10-PCS Technical Advisory Group and HCFA's Ambulance Fee Schedule Negotiated Rulemaking, Medical Necessity Workgroup.

Ms. Leon-Chisen's prior experience includes stints as a Director of Medical Records and Director of Quality Assurance. In addition, she has developed and taught classes for health information management training programs. She has lectured extensively on coding throughout the United States and internationally.

Ms. Leon-Chisen has received numerous professional awards including the Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Health Information Management Association and the Distinguished Member Award from the Chicago Area Health Information Management Association. She is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.

She is dual degreed with a BS in Medical Records Administration and a BA in History and English.


Benjamin D. Oden, RHIT, CCS, CCS-P
Senior Coding Consultant

With more than thirty years of coding experience, Ms. Oden is a senior consultant and Managing Editor of the Coding Clinic for HCPCS. At AHA Central Office, her responsibilities have included content development for the quarterly newsletters for both ICD-10-CM and HCPCS, coding presentations, and coding education as well as responding to coding inquiries.

Previously, Ms. Oden was a quality coordinator and a supervisor of utilization review conducting random chart reviews at selected hospitals throughout Illinois. She has also provided coding training for both doctors and nurses.

Ms. Oden is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Anita Rapier, RHIT, CCS
Senior Coding Consultant

Ms. Rapier has more than 30 years experience in health information management combining a broad knowledge base of ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS and CPT Coding in acute care, psychiatric and rehab facilities and long term care settings. At Central Office, Ms. Rapier is Managing Editor of Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS, secretary to the AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS Editorial Advisory Board and a member of the Central Office team responsible for annual revisions to the ICD-10-CM/ICD-10-PCS Coding Handbook. She also develops and presents coding educational seminars. In addition to extensive coding and supervisory experience at academic medical centers, she has been a coding instructor.

Besides her RHIT and CCS designations, Ms. Rapier holds an Associate Degree in Applied Science. She is currently serving as chair of AHIMA's CCS construction committee, and has previously served as a project member of the ILAHIMA Advisory Board and a workgroup member of the AMA's CPT-5 Project.

Ms. Rapier is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Cherrsse Ruffin, RHIT
Coding Consultant

Ms. Ruffin brings more than 20 years of health information management experience to AHA Central Office where she responds to requests for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS coding advice and develops coding clinic quizzes for continuing education credit. She also researches and develops issues for the AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Editorial Advisory Board. Her previous experience includes inpatient and outpatient coding at both academic medical centers and rehabilitation hospitals. She also worked as an outpatient auditor and physician billing specialist.

Besides her RHIT designation, Ms. Ruffin has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Management and is an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Kathy White, RHIA
Coding Consultant

Ms. White brings more than 10 years of health information management experience to AHA Central Office where she responds to requests for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS coding advice. She also researches and develops issues for the AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Editorial Advisory Board. Her previous experience includes inpatient and outpatient coding in acute care hospitals and as a clinical information analyst reviewing records for the quality improvement process.

Besides her RHIA designation, Ms. White has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Health Information Management and a Master of Jurisprudence in Health Law. She is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Gretchen Young-Charles, RHIA
Senior Coding Consultant

With more than 25 years of experience, Ms. Young-Charles is an integral part of the Central Office team responsible for annual revisions to the ICD-10-CM/ICD-10-PCS Coding Handbook. She specializes in quality review and rehabilitation coding. She is also a regular presenter in the Central Office audio conferences.

Prior to joining AHA, Ms.Young-Charles had experience as both a hospital Director of Medical Records and a DRG coordinator. In addition, she was a consultant at a VA hospital focusing on coding and quality reviews as well as conducting analytical patient outcome studies.

In addition to her RHIA credentialing, she has a BS in Health Information Management and is also an AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.


Halima Zayyad-Matarieh, RHIA
Coding Consultant

Ms. Zayyad-Matarieh brings over 15 years experience to her role as a coding consultant for ICD-10 CM/PCS. At the AHA Central Office, she focuses on responding to requests for ICD-10 CM & PCS coding advice. She also is involved in researching and developing content for the Coding Clinic Editorial Advisory Board.

Her previous experience includes coding and supervisory positions in community hospitals and academic medical centers. Ms. Zayyad-Matarieh holds a BS Degree in Health Information Management as well as RHIA credentialing. Ms. Zayyad-Matarieh is also an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.