James J. Cimino, MD, FACMI

Year Elected: 
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University

Currently: NIH Clinical Center

Web site: www.cc.nih.gov/about/SeniorStaff/james_cimino.html

Jim Cimino is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Informatics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. A 1977 graduate in biology from Brown University, he earned an MD from New York Medical College in 1981. He completed a residency in internal medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center in New York, spend a year as an attending physician in the Department of Community Medicine, and then entered a three-year, NLM-sponsored postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1985-88) under the mentorship of Octo Barnett, with guidance from Ed Hoffer and Bob Greenes. In 1988, he accepted a position as an assistant professor at Columbia University, with a primary appointment in the Center for Biomedical Informatics (initiated by Paul Clayton in 1987) and a secondary appointment in the Department of Medicine. At Columbia, he spends most of his time in informatics research and development, but also teaches informatics to informatics students, teaches medicine to medical students in the classroom, teaches medicine to the housestaff in the clinics and hospital wards, and sees patients in the faculty internal medicine practice.

Although his undergraduate degree was in biology, he undertook a second major in computer science while at Brown. His interest in computing carried over to medical school, and he pursued a fourth-year elective in "Computers in Medicine" at the National Institutes of Health where, under the mentorship, he developed a connection between a pre-PC desktop computer and the hospital information system to generate graphical representations of patient data. Dubbed the Patient Information Graphics System (PIGS), the work was presented at the 1981 Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC).

During his fellowship, he led the development of the knowledge base for the DXplain diagnostic decision support system, developed by Octo Barnett and Jon Hupp. He was also involved in the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS), from its inception in 1986. Of note, he developed a method for representing controlled medical terminologies that supported automated translation based on comparison of semantic representations and developed an automated method for extracting semantic information from the Medline database.

Since coming to Columbia, he has contributed to the development of the Paul Clayton's Clinical Information System (CIS) used at Presbyterian Hospital; his chief contribution has been the construction of a terminologic knowledge base called the Medical Entities Dictionary, which has introduced a new paradigm for modeling controlled medical terminologies. His terminology modeling led to the development of an information model called the "Medical Concept Space" that could be combined with automated knowledge generation techniques and natural language processing to produce a framework for organizing knowledge and text into a single, navigable "hyperdocument". Continuing his work on the UMLS, he developed the "Medline Button", which automatically translates medical diagnoses in a patient's record into terms that can be used to automatically search the medical literature.