• Faces of AMIA

    Mary Regina Boland, PhD

    AMIA provides a place where a lot of other informatics professionals and clinicians can meet.

Mary Regina Boland, PhD

Current Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics, University of Pennsylvania
PhD, Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University
MPhil., Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University
MA, Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University
BS, Bioinformatics, St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Penn.

Biography and photograph when elected: 

How do I describe my work to those outside the field …

I usually say that it’s a mixture of biology and computer science and medicine. I look at using the clinical information to discover new things about disease. That can be adverse drug reactions, it could be things like birth season mechanisms – illnesses that coordinate with birth seasons – or socioeconomic disparities. You can use the clinical record systems for a lot of different types of research which I find fascinating.

Years of experience:

I’ve been in informatics for about 11 years.

Why Informatics? 

I switched to informatics as an undergraduate and it was a really new program. Before I switched, I was in biochemistry and I switched because we were starting to use a lot larger data sets and then we needed more sophisticated computational methods to handle those data sets, and traditional biochemistry doesn’t teach you programming or all those tools that I would need so I switched into bioinformatics. I’m actually glad I switched because I’ve used data mining a lot and I think a lot of fields require that now.

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

I haven’t started to think too much about the end of my career, but for now, I hope that my research will allow us to uncover actual biological mechanisms to explain some of the birth season mechanisms that I have uncovered from the clinical record systems. I think at the end of my career, it would be nice to know concretely why they occur and in what populations, and what we can do to achieve more effective treatments for people who have these conditions.

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

I usually turn to JAMIA and JBI – the Journal of Bioinformatics. For more biological informatics, and for the genomic side of informatics, I think Bioinformatics is a great resource as well.  These are my key sources. I do like going to the AMIA meetings for the talks. Sometimes a person might publish in a journal that I don’t read but if I go to AMIA, they might be presenting that work, so I can learn about something important that I might have missed.

Articles that spotlight my research interest …

Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA...

I play the piano, and I enjoy hiking. I also play the pipe organ.

AMIA is important to me because ...

AMIA is important to me because it allows me to connect with other people who are in informatics. It provides a place, like the conferences, where a lot of other informatics professionals and clinicians can meet. I can go to the conferences and there will be people from all over the country who are interested in informatics.

I am involved with AMIA ...

I’m on the AMIA Awards Committee and the Scientific Program Committee for the upcoming AMIA 2018 Annual Symposium and I am also on the Scientific Program Committee for the AMIA 2019 Informatics Summit in San Francisco in March. 

It may surprise people to know ...

I play the pipe organ. I don’t have one at home, so I have to go to places that have them. A lot of churches have them and some will allow you to practice or perform. There are also a couple convention centers that have pipe organs. I played the piano for a very long time, since I was 6 years old. In college I had the opportunity to be introduced to the organ. We had a professor who taught the organ, and that is how I got involved. Once you switch to organ it’s hard to go back to playing the piano because with the organ you control so many aspects. You can use different pipes, and different reeds to create different types of sound. It’s an expansion of the piano. With the organ you have a full range, it’s almost like an orchestra.