• Faces of AMIA

    Michael Chiang, MD, MA

    Learning about the field of biomedical informatics is how I feel like I grew up professionally.

Michael Chiang, MD, MA

Current Affiliation: Knowles Professor, Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology and Ophthalmology, Vice-chair (Research), Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health & Science University
BS, Stanford University 
MD, Harvard Medical School and Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology
MA, Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University

Biography and photograph when elected: 

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

Broadly speaking, I study ways in which we can use technology to improve the ways that we manage data and information in clinical medicine. Specifically, I focus on several areas: 1) telemedicine, 2) computer-based image analysis to help physicians make more accurate diagnoses and better decisions and 3) developing and implementing information systems to improve clinical workflow based on secondary data from the electronic health record.

Years of experience:

About 15 years. I finished my clinical training in 2001, and finished my informatics training in 2004.

Why Informatics?

As an engineering student in college during the early 1990s I spent one summer working at a startup company in Silicon Valley that builds cardiac ultrasound devices. One other summer, I worked in a cardiology research group at the local medical school which developed computer algorithms to diagnose heart disease from medical images. Coincidentally, those medical images came from cardiac ultrasound devices. That set of experiences really fascinated me because I got to see first hand how technology could be used to improve human health. That was what made me want to become a physician-scientist – not just to develop those devices but also to apply them to patient care. Then, during my clinical training, in the late 1990s, virtually all physicians were still using paper charts. While training in that era, I experienced first hand how difficult and cumbersome that process was, and how there were so many potential opportunities to be able to improve the healthcare delivery process through information technology. From those experiences, I felt that instead of building new devices, which is what I had originally wanted to do, that what the world needed was more people who focus on information management and data management in healthcare. Overall that’s how I decided to focus on informatics in my career. What I did then was a National Library of Medicine Fellowship in Informatics, and eventually focus my career in that area.

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

I would say that my career goal is fairly simple. I’d like to be able to accomplish something that makes a difference in the world. If I can do something and then recognize that I contributed to a set of advances that are being used in the real world to improve human health, then I’ll be able to look back on my career and feel that it was completely successful. Having said that, I’ve learned over the years that this is an extremely ambitious goal that is difficult to accomplish. But I’m trying, like many people. It’s an enormously exciting time to be doing this sort of work.

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

When I did my informatics fellowship at Columbia University, starting in 2001, my primary mentors were Drs. Justin Starren and Ted Shortliffe. I stayed on the faculty at Columbia until 2010, and my chair there became George Hripcsak. Those three were incredible people who taught me extremely valuable lessons that I often find myself passing along to my own students now. I moved to OHSU in 2010 where my chair is Bill Hersh, who has created a wonderful atmosphere to work in and whom I think is really an outstanding role model for promoting the field of biomedical informatics. I feel very fortunate to work with this superb set of informatics collaborators around the country now.

Articles that spotlight my research interest …

Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA …

I never imagined I’d be lucky enough to have a job which I love so much that I am excited about doing every single day. It definitely doesn’t feel like “work.” In addition to that, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and I have two daughters who are both pretty heavily involved with competitive sports like soccer, softball, track, and skiing. I try to keep fairly active with them, as long as I can keep myself from getting hurt.

AMIA is important to me because …

Learning about the field of biomedical informatics is how I feel like I grew up professionally. I love that AMIA gives me a chance to be able to work with colleagues around the world who have had similar experiences and interests. To stay with the “growing up” analogy, it feels like meeting up with childhood friends. To me it’s amazing that AMIA creates a community of people who have basically the same goal, which is to develop and apply informatics methodologies in different medical and scientific domains, with the ultimate vision of improving human health. That’s what I love about AMIA.

I am involved with AMIA …

I’ve been coming to the annual meetings since 2002. It’s always one of my favorite weeks out of the year. I have been involved with JAMIA over the years, initially as a member of the Student Editorial Board starting in 2003, then as a member of the Editorial Board, and now as an Associate Editor. For the past five years, I’ve managed the JAMIA Student Editorial Board, which trains graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are interested in learning about the academic review process. I’ve also worked with the AMIA educational team to organize the collaborative AMIA-JAMIA journal club webinar.

It may surprise people to know …

I once entered an intramural weight lifting contest when I was in college and placed second in my weight class. The guy who beat me was a nerdy graduate student with thick glasses and big muscles.

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