David Buckeridge, MD, PhD

Current Affiliation: Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Canada Research Chair in Public Health Informatics

Education: MD, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada; MSc Epidemiology from University of Toronto, PhD in Biomedical Informatics, Stanford University.

How I describe my work to those outside the field …

I usually describe it as being at the intersection of public health and computer science.

Years of experience in informatics …

My PhD started in 2001, but I think I was doing work in informatics and didn’t know it for at least 5 years before that.

Why informatics …

Because it’s the answer to so many of the problems that limit information, information systems, and analytical methods from being used to their potential in public health and in medicine more generally.

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

I hope to revolutionize public health surveillance. Probably not a realistic goal, but that’s what really got me into this. When I said I started doing informatics work before I began my doctoral training; I was trying to improve public health surveillance. And then I discovered informatics as a natural solution to that problem. My vision is one where we acquire in real time all the relevant data and apply deep analytic methods to generate actionable information the supports people in making better decisions in public health.

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

The literature on informatics and surveillance, professional associations, and key people. In terms of literature, I was deeply inspired by Marsden Blois’s book ‘Information and Medicine’. My core associations are AMIA and the International Society for Disease Surveillance. In terms of people: Ted Shortliffe was my first informatics role model, Mark Musen was my PhD supervisor and I continue to be inspired by his work. Also, there are people who are continuously innovating in public health informatics, like George Hripsak, and people like Greg Cooper who have been very successful at applying sophisticated analytic methods in public health.

What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

I have 3 young girls ages 6, 9 and 11, so that occupies a lot of time. We have a real fun team. We have a cabin in the mountains just north of Montreal, where we live. We all go down hill skiing in the winter, we do that pretty much every weekend. Skating, I play hockey. In the summer I mountain bike and also like to get out and hike.

Articles that spotlight my research interest …

Buckeridge DL, Izadi M, Shaban-Nejad A, Mondor L, Jauvin C, Dube L, Jang Y, Tamblyn R. An infrastructure for real-time population health assessment and monitoring. IBM Journal of Research and Development 2012;56(5):2.1-2.11.

Buckeridge DL, Izadi MT, Okhmatovskaia A, Verma A. Broadening the Perspective of AI in Public Health Surveillance: From Local Aberration Detection to Global Epidemic Monitoring and Control. IEEE Intelligent Systems 2009;24(6):66-82

Buckeridge DL, Okhmatovskaia A, Tu S, O'Connor M, Nyulas C, Musen MA. Understanding detection performance in public health surveillance: Modeling aberrancy-detection algorithms. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):760-9.

AMIA is important to me because ...

Because it brings it all together, really. It is at the intersection between so many fields coming together for a common issue and you just can’t get that expertise and that mixing by going to the individual organizations or associations, or even pieces of literature. I think it’s critical to have AMIA as an organization that brings all that together in a way that has theory behind it and a lot of experience and expertise.

I am involved with AMIA …

I have been on the Scientific Program Committee, I review for JAMIA and the Proceedings, I have been on the Publications Committee, and I am a member of the Public Health and Evaluation working groups.

It may surprise people to know …

Probably the most surprising thing is that I work in French for most of the time. McGill University is English but all of my public health practice is in French, which is a very interesting angle on life, society and informatics because you have to be working in a multilingual environment. French is not my first language but my wife is Francophone, so our house is completely bilingual, in fact it’s more French than English. The children all go to school in French and my wife speaks to them in French so the language in the house is predominantly French, too. It’s a challenge for an old brain. I was born in Ontario and raised in British Columbia, which are both English provinces.

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