The recent availability of enormous amounts of healthcare data has provided physicians and scientists the opportunity to develop technology to improve healthcare outcomes and foster groundbreaking research. One of the missions of the Columbia Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) is to introduce medical students to biomedical informatics so that they become familiar with the cutting-edge methods to answer important healthcare questions, and, perhaps, participate in creating important tools that improve the ability of physicians to provide outstanding, safe, and efficient care.
Dr. Herbert Chase, Professor of Clinical Medicine in Biomedical Informatics, takes the lead in introducing medical students to the field. Chase reaches all medical students with a series of introductory lectures that emphasize the value of electronic health records and the potential of clinical decision support.
To supplement these lectures, Chase created a series of YouTube podcasts on varied topics such as datamining and clinical decision support, geared to medical students to access when needed. His most popular one is entitled Overview Of Biomedical Informatics which has more than 2,100 views.
A second mission of the department is to identify outstanding students who may want to be clinical informaticians. “It’s about recruitment in a maturing field with a generation of tech-savvy kids who see the potential of technology in medical practice,” Chase said.
The department offers a variety of research opportunities for students who demonstrate a deeper interest in informatics such as the scholarly research project. He also advises students working on a project with a faculty member in a clinical department who may want to use biomedical informatics methods.
The Department also offers an elective in biomedical informatics for residents and fellows, regardless of their computational science background, to set up conversations with each department member to learn about the various and diverse aspects of the field.
This elective has provided important connections for trainee physicians who may not ultimately end up in the biomedical informatics field. Instead, they can find modern ways of researching important medical questions using the tools discovered through their DBMI interactions. Through these interactions, clinicians often provide insights in their own specialties to help informaticians build the next generation of tools. About 35 residents took this elective during the 2018-19 academic year.
Some of these residents may want to do a clinical informatics fellowship. A particularly exciting milestone for the department’s training mission was the creation of the Clinical Informatics Subspecialty Fellowship, a two-year program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
“We are seeking to train the in-between person,” Chase said, “the person who knows clinical medicine, and who understands the ecosystem of electronic health records and the methods of biomedical informatics. They can identify worthy clinical questions thanks to their clinical knowledge, and can also determine what are the interventions that would require a computational component and what that component would look like.”
Medical students, residents and fellows can benefit from DBMI interactions. As their understanding of informatics potential grows, so too will their vision on how they can positively impact the evolution of medicine and healthcare.