Rita Kukafka DrPH, MA, FACMI

Chief Diversity Officer; Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Sociomedical Sciences at CUMC

Rita Kukafka, Dr.PH, MA, MA, FACMI, is a professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University jointly appointed to the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health. She leads a research program that bridges population health, data science and prediction, decision and behavioral sciences, and genomics. Her research focuses onintegrating multiple levels of patient-derived and electronic health record data for risk prediction and developing and implementing decision support for precision prevention. With an emphasis on health equity and disparities, her research extends beyond developing models with better prediction performance. It incorporates human-centered design of decision support interventions, including patient decision aids, and assessing effectiveness and implementation outcomes for risk factor management that promote individualized prevention and treatment. She has received over 25 years of continuous NIH funding and led several NIH-funded randomized controlled implementation-effectiveness trials to evaluate risk perceptions, decision quality, and uptake of risk-aligned preventative services, including predictive genetic testing and chemoprevention. She is currently leading a 26 multi-site trial of the FHIR-enabled RealRisks decision aid through the SWOG cancer research network to study the use of decision support tools by women with high-risk breast conditions. Through a grant funded by the NIH Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, she is conducting another study to refine and evaluate an equity-focused FHIR approach that integrates patient-generated and EHR data for breast cancer risk assessment.  Her interdisciplinary research lab includes collaborators and trainees from biomedical informatics, public health, primary care medicine, genetics, oncology, data science, cognitive science, computer sciences, and engineering.

Dr. Kukafka received a master’s degree in public health from New York University and a Doctorate in Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. After working for several years in State and Local health departments, she returned to Columbia, where she completed a National Library of Medicine postdoctoral fellowship and received a second master’s degree in biomedical informatics. At Columbia, Dr. Kukafka was director of the graduate training program from 2008-2013.  She was appointed Chief Diversity Officer for the Department of Biomedical Informatics in September 2021. She is an elected member of the American College of Medical Informatics and the New York Academy of Medicine. She has actively contributed to the American Medical Informatics Association and served two terms on the AMIA Board. She has chaired the Consumer Health Informatics Working group for AMIA and served on an Institute of Medicine study committee that asked, in the 21st Century, ‘Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? She also served as co-editor-in-chief of JMIR, a leading digital medicine and health journal. She has been in leadership roles at the national level to develop curricula and train healthcare providers to use health information technology. Dr. Kukafka has authored over 150 articles, chapters, and books in biomedical informatics.