Monday, November 9, 2009

Academia = Education AND Research

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium is clearly the best informatics meeting of the year. It is rigorously academic, so the quality is top-notch, but not too much, so you can glean plenty of practical information as well.

The AMIA symposium is also an opportunity for us because we can showcase our department. As always, our faculty and students will pepper the program with great papers, panels, and posters. In addition, the annual OHSU banquet is a gratifying display of the energy and passion of our program, not to mention quite fun. I look forward to this year's meeting in San Francisco later this month.

This meeting always give me a chance to reflect on the importance of a comprehensive academic program that values both education and research. A vibrant graduate-level program cannot thrive without both. Being at the cutting edge of research allows faculty to be the knowledge and thought leaders in their respective areas.

This was borne out a couple years ago when we hosted a focus group that assembled a number of what we call "local distance" students, which are students who live in the Portland area but prefer to enroll in our on-line program. We wanted to know why they preferred that instead of coming "up the hill" to the OHSU campus. The answers were obvious in retrospect: they appreciate the convenience of being able to carry out their studies at their preferred hours (usually evenings and weekends) and they did not want to deal with the hassle of driving to and parking on our campus (which everyone knows can be a pain, at least during regular working hours).

There was, however, another interesting finding that came from the focus group. These students told us they were drawn to our program not only because of its local connection, but also because they valued the faculty and their leadership roles in the field, especially their research. Even though they were unlikely to become researchers themselves, or for some to even do research, they believed it was important to obtain their education in a department that was known for being a leader in research as well.

As always, I look forward to catching up with students, alumni, and old friends at the AMIA meeting.

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