• Faces of AMIA

    Steve Labkoff, MD, FACP

    It is my hope that I can impact how healthcare records can be used to find a variety of innovative insights to further medicine development.

Steve Labkoff, MD, FACP

Education: Doctor of Medicine, Temple University Medical School, Philadelphia, PA; Fellow, American College of Physicians

How I describe my work to those outside the field

I work for AstraZeneca as head of strategic programs. My work in the pharmaceutical industry aims to find insights about how our medicines work in large populations, based on patients’ experience. We get this information from patients’ medical records, insurance claims, pharmacy prescribing data and other sources. We then analyze the data to garner a wide array of insights about our medicines. Some areas identify new biomarkers, safety signals & adverse events, new indications for medicines, improved clinical trial design and interpretation–to name just a few.

The aim is to make pharmaceutical development cycles more effective, so that we can identify the right drugs for the right patients at the right time with the right safety profiles, and to furnish the right commercial value. To do this at a world-class level, we need access to data–lots of data. Informatics is the key to being able to make sense of this data from both the clinical and research perspectives.

Years of experience

  • 28 years overall – I went to my first Symposium for Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC, AMIA’s precursor) in 1983 when I was a college student. I was awarded a scholarship from Muhlenberg College to learn how computer science is applied to medicine.

Why Informatics?

I got interested in computer science when I was in high school, and when the first Apples and TRS80s became available. I instantly started to find ways to apply the computer to solve different problems. I applied solutions I found to things in college and later in medical school. I really started to focus on how to get the computer to solve problems for researchers and clinicians at Temple University School of Medicine. I became so enamored with the work that I started a medical informatics consulting company to write applications for medical professionals. It was 1987 and I was a second-year medical student. So I guess I have always been involved with informatics.

What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Truthfully, at the end of the day I want to be able to say that I’ve had an impact on the care of patients. There’s no sense in doing any of this unless you are going to affect patient care. It is my hope that I can impact how healthcare records can be used to find a variety of innovative insights to further medicine development. It is not too ambitious to hope that my work can have a meaningful impact in finding ways to impact serious medical diseases such as ALS, cancer or immunological disorders.

Who or what are your "key sources" in the informatics field?

I leverage my own personal network very heavily–folks I’ve worked with or studied with. There’s JAMIA, AMIA’s journal of informatics in health and biomedicine, and other resources. But at the end of the day, when I need to get something done, I generally rely on my own network to find the right people to help solve a problem. The AMIA network is full of wonderful people with a myriad of experiences to draw upon. It’s a 'one-stop shop' for the best minds in the field.

Articles that spotlight my research interests:

  • Opportunities for Electronic Health Record Data to Support Business Functions in the Pharmaceutical Industry – A Case Study from Pfizer, Inc. Kim D., Labkoff S., Holliday S. J Am Med Inform Assoc v 15(5): 581-584 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528036/)
  • Toward a National Framework for the Secondary Use of Health Data: An American Medical Informatics Association White Paper. Safran C., Bloomrosen M., Hammond W.E., Labkoff S., Markel-Fox S., Tang P., Detmer D. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2007 Jan-Feb; 14(1): 1–9. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2329823/)

AMIA is important to me because…

It’s the home base of all new and innovative things that happen in the field. It brings everyone who has common interests together. Collective interests are actually pretty varied, but the nature of the organization permits bringing some really amazing people together from time to time. Knowing who is 'in the soup,' and what their capabilities may be enables me to bring insights for informatics back into my industry. AMIA, by providing the forum in which these types of connections take place, is vital to my success and that of my organization.

I am involved with AMIA…

I started AMIA’s Industry Advisory Board back in the mid-2000s. I eventually went on to chair and then co-chair that board. Now I’m a member of the same board. I am also a member of the Finance Committee and Membership Committee. In addition, I have run special projects around secondary uses of healthcare data for the U.S. and this spring, for the EU.

Through my continuous involvement with AMIA, I’ve watched it evolve and grow, change its face and focus. And most recently, I’ve watched it become more receptive to different types of informatics professionals. To me, it is vital that the organization is welcoming to all members of the informatics community, whether they be from academia, government, or from industry.

It may surprise people to know…

I’m an avid photographer and do digital media production and videography as a hobby. I’ve produced short movies and published one-off photography books. I also used to coach my children’s soccer teams, when they were young. I learned to play and coach soccer by playing Nintendo’s FIFA World Cup 2006. I never played soccer in my life until my daughter started playing and I decided to coach, and I needed to learn the game quickly. By spending time with the game, I learned the rules and strategy and was able to coach my daughter’s team to nine championships in five years!

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