Degrees: BS and M.Eng, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.A. and M.Phil, Columbia University
How I describe my work to those outside the field
Information impacts health in various ways.
I apply informatics methods to study news coverage of health topics. Research shows that health news tends to be biased in numerous ways, often omits important facts, and emphasizes sensational risks and cures over coverage that is balanced, accurate and complete. Journalists admit that covering science, medicine and research is difficult, and balancing health promotion, informing the public, and addressing the business realities of the news industry is challenging. I am developing ways to assist researchers in evaluating whether the media are doing a good job.
Researchers currently evaluate health news using methods that are manual and time-consuming. Numerous computational methods from the areas of natural language processing, data mining, and information retrieval exist that may help and should be explored. As an informatician I want to bridge the gap and use those computer science methods to evaluate health news research.
Years of experience
20 years overall – started by developing data analysis software for physiological research, then a number of years in the software development, database, online advertising and Internet sectors
5 years in the informatics field
I think I have always done informatics. I have a passion for accessing, sharing, and using information. I also have a broad interest in science and technology. With informatics, I have the opportunity to have a varied and broad career that can span both research and industry. I can focus on theoretical and practical challenges, working to identify solutions that have a tangible, positive impact on people.
What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?
I have noticed a common thread through all my work experience and research of attempting to make information useful and meaningful to people. I want to make important information available to people that really need it, and can use it help themselves and others.
Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?
One thing I try to do is keep abreast of advances in health, science and technology not only from a researcher or informaticists point of view, but also from the user’s/consumer’s point of view. I want to know what people are using, what they are interested in, and why. I read technology blogs, research articles, and other technology and science publications – within and outside the field of informatics. I am fascinated by science. I love to explore, and draw inspiration from, advances and innovations in other domains. And lastly, I am lucky to work alongside great peers, students and faculty, and to find their work relevant and interesting.
Articles that spotlight my research interests:
My Columbia thesis (working title) Using informatics to explore health news
Using term frequency to identify trends in the media's coverage of health McFarlane D.J., Kukafka R., AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings, 2007 Oct 11:1045.
Healthy Harlem: empowering health consumers through social networking, tailoring and web 2.0 technologies. Khan SA, McFarlane DJ, Li J, Ancker JS, Hutchinson C, Cohall A, Kukafka R., AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2007 Oct 11:1007
AMIA is important to me because …
I find it refreshing to see how the informatics profession is growing. Researchers often hunker down and put on blinders in an attempt to get their work done. AMIA allows me and others to take part in the greater informatics community. It allows me to gain a sense of the current state of informatics research. It gives me the opportunity to explore first hand what is new, important and relevant, in the field.
I am involved with AMIA …
I have given presentations and presented posters. That experience has been invaluable. I also have a number of friends, colleagues and peers spread throughout the informatics community. AMIA gives me the opportunity to reconnect with them.
It may surprise people to know …
I’m a native New Yorker. I grew up in the Bronx and am one of those people who absolutely loves NY. I love music. I have a huge and diverse music collection, classical music, reggae, rock and roll, jazz, blues, hip-hip, soul. I love it all. And I am a singer. I’ve been singing in one form or another since I was a small child. I sang gospel for years, then discovered choral music, which I sing to this day. I love small and large choral singing, and I love the masters, Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Faure.