• Faces of AMIA

    Wanda Pratt, PhD, MS

    I bridge the gap between health and technology to help patients better manage their health.

Wanda Pratt, PhD, MS

Degrees: PhD, Stanford University, MS in Computer Science, University of Texas, and BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Kansas

How I describe my work to those outside the field

 I design and research new kinds of technologies to help patients find and effectively use the information and social support they need to manage their health.

Years of experience

  •  25 years overall – started as a professional programmer
  • 17 years in the informatics field

Why informatics?

 I fell in love with health and technology. 

 After earning my B.S., I joined NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where I built software for astronauts to help decrease the physiological deconditioning they experience during long-term space flights. I also read Ted Shortliffe’s seminal textbook, Medical Informatics: Computer Applications in Health Care, and found it fascinating. It was the first I learned of the field, and medical expert systems (complex computer programs that emulate clinical reasoning). 

 I was excited to have found this new field that supported my work with exercise physiologists and astronauts in the short term, and matched my long-term need to make a difference in people’s lives. I care about health, and I care about technology. Medical Informatics allows me to pursue both passions. 

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

 I hope my work leads to a world where patients no longer struggle to find, use or manage health information. My work should empower patients to become informed, active participants who can use information to maximize the quality of their own health care while maintaining other important aspects of their lives.

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

 The field is very interdisciplinary, so I try to stay connected to the medical informatics and information science communities. My primary interest is in human-computer interaction, which merges concepts and methodologies from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and industrial design with computing. 

Articles that spotlight my research interests:

  • Unruh, K.T., Skeels, M., Civan-Hartzler, A., & Pratt, W. (2010).Transforming Clinic Environments into Information Workspaces for Patients. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '10). p. 183-192. April 2010, Atlanta, GA.
  • Pratt, W., Unruh, K., Civan, A., & Skeels, M. (2006). Managing health information in your life. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (CACM), 49(1), 51-55.
  • Pratt, W., Reddy, M.C., McDonald, D.W., Tarczy-Hornoch, P., Gennari., J.H. Incorporating Ideas from Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Journal of Biomedical Informatics. 2004; v37:1p.28-137. 

AMIA is important to me because …

 I see AMIA as the one organization that is trying to be truly interdisciplinary. AMIA builds bridges and enables people from disparate fields to solve important problems in the health care world today. It helps me connect with others who share my passion for health and technology. It has a strong focus on research, but also a policy component that I value. 

I am involved with AMIA …

 I participate in the Consumer Health Informatics and People and Organizational Issues Working Groups, have served as a mentor on the Doctoral Consortium for three years, was on the Publications Committee for two years, was on the Awards Committee for two years, was on the Scientific Program Committee for three years, and am the Foundations Track Chair for the 2011 Annual Symposium. My goal is to ensure that AMIA continues to be a vibrant interdisciplinary organization that addresses the needs of the information science and computer science communities.

It may surprise people to know …

 I am passionate about supporting women in this field, and encouraging them to lead balanced lives. I have a 5-year-old daughter, and I work hard to balance being a devoted mom with being a successful researcher.

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