Ida Sim, MD, PhD, FACMI

Current affiliation: University of California, San Francisco

Education: Stanford University, MD, PhD in Medical Informatics, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

How I describe my work to those outside the field …

I apply computer science to how patients and doctors make medical decisions. I use techniques on how to represent knowledge and how to reason automatically with knowledge to help doctors understand the literature and the scientific research and to make decisions based on that research. More recently, I’ve been using these same technologies to help bring patients into the discussion about what kind of decisions need to be made, either in joint care between themselves and their doctors or in their self-care.

Years of experience …

I graduated with my PhD in 1998 so that would give me 14 years in the informatics field.

Why informatics?

One of the fundamental challenges in being a good clinician is being able to manage knowledge and uncertainty and lots and lots and lots of data. The computer is a technology that can help with that. There are many other aspects of medicine that are more human and more personal, but the parts that deal with managing knowledge and data are things that we should want to use the computer for, as a tool for us to use. That’s always fascinated me, the intersection of computational technologies and the art and science of medicine.

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

There are two things that I would look like to look back on and say that I’ve helped make happen:

One is that the scientific literature, the clinical research, randomized trials and observational studies, are published and made available in a form that is computable, rather than being in a text-article or pdf format as they are now. Instead I would like to see the actual structure and results of clinical research be made directly computable, the way that the actual genomic sequence of an organism is directly computable in a database. That is something I’ve been working on for my entire career and slowly getting there, so I think I would like to be able to say that I was instrumental in making that happen.

The other thing that I would like to say that I have made happen is an open architecture for mobile health. That is one of my newer ventures, and it is called The idea there is to introduce and promote a viable open source way for shared modules and data sharing in mobile health so that we can maximize the cohesiveness and the power of mobile technologies for self care and clinical care. These are related because my vision for mobile health is a blend of patient self care and all that entails, which is very personal and very contextural in how people live their lives. It is also grounded in the best of research and the best of science, where the clinician and the patients can both get at research evidence and generate research evidence as we take care of each other through mobile health.

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

Definitely AMIA. But I find also that most of my sources are list servers and discussion lists that I sign up on, whether it’s on mobile health or whether it’s on semantic web technology, and blogs and topical reviews. That’s how I get pointed to articles and breaking approaches that really are not domain specific because what I do crosses so many domains. Whether it’s health services, privacy or software architecture, I draw from many sources so I’m thinking actually it’s more list servers that I sign up on where things get pushed to me from many different sources. That’s where I’m getting a lot of my information from.

Articles that spotlight my research interests …

There is an article just out in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on Open M Health – it is entitled Making Sense of Mobile Health Data: An Open Architecture to Improve Individual and Population-Level Health. It is their most tweeted.

AMIA is important to me because …

AMIA is where there is the greatest concentration of colleagues that understand the various aspects of my work.

I am involved with AMIA …

I attend the conferences and I reviewed papers for both the main conference and the clinical research informatics summit. I’m also a member of the College of Medical Informatics.

It may surprise people to know …

I have worked in five different countries: U.S., Canada, Germany, Nepal and Switzerland, where I was posted to the World Health Organization about six years ago and ran a project. Working in these different countries has greatly expanded my horizons.

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