Probably my biggest highlight for this year is the awarding of two new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. One is an exciting new project funded by the NIH Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa Initiative (DS-I), where the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program will be teaming up with the University of Cape Town (UCT) to develop new Research Training opportunities. A nice overview in Nature describes the larger initiative.
In this project, OHSU will partner with UCT to develop a new graduate program in Computational Omics and Biomedical Informatics (COBIP) that will start at UCT and aim to expand to other institutions from other countries across southern Africa. I will be on the leadership team and provide my expertise in developing and leading graduate programs in biomedical informatics and data science. The program will draw on the clinical informatics courses that OHSU offers, and other OHSU informatics faculty also be involved in teaching and mentoring of research projects of students in the program. We will aim to build what the overall NIH program seeks to accomplish, namely adding capacity in biomedical informatics and data science across the African continent. With the development of computer networks and sources of health data across Africa, the time is ripe to leverage it for the health of people in Africa. As with other programs we have helped developed over the years (in places like Argentina and Thailand), our goal is to develop sustainable programs in these places so they can eventually function without the need for us. Despite some setbacks from Covid, Africa is really poised to see development of using informatics to improve the healthcare and public health systems, ultimately benefiting health of the people. And hopefully in the long run the program will attract local talent and expertise and become an independent part of the global informatics community.
The second new grant is a five-year renewal of a project, Semi-structured Information Retrieval in Clinical Text for Cohort Identification. This funding continues my work in collaborating with colleagues from the Mayo Clinic and University of Texas Houston at the intersection of information retrieval and re-use of electronic health record data.
In addition to grants funded, I also served as a senior author on a couple of journal articles published in 2021:
- Chen J, Hersh W, A comparative analysis of system features used in the TREC-COVID information retrieval challenge, Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 2021, 117:103745.
- Roberts K, Alam T, Bedrick S, Demner-Fushman S, Lo S, Soboroff I, Voorhees E, Wang LL, Hersh WR, Searching for answers in a pandemic: an overview of TREC-COVID, Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 2021, 121:103865.
In 2021, I also assumed the Presidency of the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics and was a co-author on two papers describing some activities of the Academy:
- Koch S, Hersh WR, Bellazzi R, Leong TY, Yedaly M, Al-Shorbaji N. Digital Health during COVID-19: Informatics Dialogue with the World Health Organization. Yearbook of Medical Informatics. 2021, 30(1):13-16.
- Haux R, Ball MJ, Hersh WR, Huesing E, Kimura M, Koch S, Martin-Sanchez F, Otero P. The International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics (IAHSI): 2020 Report. Yearbook of Medical Informatics. 2021, 30(1):8-12.
I also published three book chapters in 2021:
- Hersh W, Biomedical Informatics, in Kutz M (ed.), Biomedical Engineering Fundamentals, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2021, 31-48.
- Hersh W, Information Retrieval, in Shortliffe EH, Cimino J, Chiang MF (eds.), Biomedical Informatics: Computer Applications in Health Care and Biomedicine, 5th Edition, New York, Springer, 2021, 761-800.
- Hersh W, A Passion and a Calling, in: Kulikowski, C., Mihalas, G., Yacubsohn, Y., Greenes, R., Park, H.-A. (eds.), IMIA History Book. Healthcare Computing & Communications Canada, 2021, 383–386 (described further in an earlier post to this blog).
During the year, I also participated, mostly remotely, in a number of academic conferences, some of which were international. I gave an international keynote talk, although unfortunately from the confines of my home office at not with my long-time friends in Argentina, at the Jornadas de Informática en Salud del Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires on November 16th entitled, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: The Need to Translate From Basic Science to Clinical Value. Both the video part of my talk and my slides and references can be viewed online.
In another international conference in Portugal, I spoke virtually on a panel at the conference, Healthcare in Post-Pandemic – Will Value for Health be the Way?, hosted by the Value for Health Collaborative in Lisbon, Portugal (virtual), June 18th. Domestically, I provided an update virtually, AMIA Update on Academic, Education and Certification Initiatives, at the CAHIIM Fall Festival: Navigating Higher Education 2021 (virtual), October 7th.
Fortunately, I was able to participate in one conference in person. After a year and a half of not attending any conference in person, I was able to make it to the AMIA Annual Symposium in San Diego, CA from October 29-November 3. This meeting marked my 36th consecutive year attending the AMIA Annual Symposium, which was known as the Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC) when I first attended it in 1986. Last year, of course, the meeting was completely virtual, but fortunately the meeting took place in San Diego, where the mild climate of southern California allowed all social events to be outdoors. At the conference I participated in a panel entitled, Career Development Issues for Women in Biomedical Informatics Within Professional Organizations, on November 1st.
I was also interviewed for a couple of podcasts. One was, Conversations from the AMIA 2021 Symposium, from The Public Health Networker podcast of the Public Health Podcast Network, in which I gave some history and perspective of AMIA and its Annual Symposium over the years.
Another podcast in which I took part was from the series called Sound Practice, hosted by the American Association for Physician Leadership. My session was At the Intersection of Technology and Healing: Trends in Medical Informatics.
Finally, I also had a chance to do some writing focused on local issues in Portland, OR and the cities challenges in grappling with economic and social issues exacerbated the pandemic. I authored a perspective for a series in the Portland Business Journal entitled, Don't Count Portland Out (apologies for it being behind a paywall).