Monday, December 9, 2013

Consider Giving a Gift to the OHSU Informatics Program

It is time for the annual giving drive of the Oregon Health& Science University (OHSU) Biomedical Informatics Program and I hope that those of you looking for good causes to support will consider giving a philanthropic gift to support the program. While our program is as strong and innovative as ever, philanthropic gifts enable us to accelerate and expand our research as well as provide support for our students.

This past year has been a transitional year for us, as we have completed our work funded by the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and moved on to new activities. While we have made this transition successfully, and continue to be known for innovation and leadership in the field, we still face challenges ahead.

Our ONC funding provided tuition support the enabled about 130 people to launch new careers in clinical informatics and health information management. We also wrapped up our work on the national health IT curriculum that will be a resource for years to come.  In addition, our bioinformatics and computational biology program continued to grow and thrive.

We have also been able to maintain some of the programs started by the ONC funding and roll them out to all the tracks of the program. One is our practicum and internship program that enables students to obtain real-world experience to augment their academic studies. (If you have possible practicum or internship experiences for our students, please let us know.) Another program we have maintained is our career development specialist, whose expertise has likewise been rolled out to all tracks of the program. Our major challenge for continuing these programs is finding sources of funding to keep them fully deployed.

As you may have read or seen, we have also undertaken new initiatives this year. The most visible of these efforts was the launching of our Informatics Discovery Lab (IDL). We aim for the IDL to address the important challenges that are facing healthcare and biomedical research and that require a combination of informatics innovation and commercial collaboration. The first fruit of the IDL is our new partnership with Epic Systems Corp. that will enable us to use the Epic electronic health record both in our teaching and in our research. We are in dialogue with a number of other industry partners to also participate in the IDL.

We have a number of other new initiatives underway. One is to address the need for informaticians of all backgrounds to acquire more skills in data analytics. We hope to fulfill this through developing new courses and other educational activities, and possibly a new track in the program. We are also recruiting for new junior faculty to keep the program fresh and vibrant. Finally, we plan this coming year to begin streaming our Thursday lunchtime research conferences live, which will augment the recorded videos that we have been posting after each event for several years. While we will not able to deliver the pizza we serve locally to remote sites, we do hope those participating remotely will be able to participate interactively via tweeting questions and comments.

The ability to carry out these activities will be augmented and accelerated with additional help that philanthropy can provide. I hope you will consider providing a gift that will allow us to reach our new goals more quickly and successfully. I give myself through a weekly deduction from my paycheck, and that is another option as well. Giving in any manner will help our students, faculty, and others associated with the program.

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