Current Affiliation: Clinical Research Associate, Division of Health and Biomedical Informatics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago
BS, Computer Information Systems, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
MS, Medical Informatics, Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
How do I describe my work to those outside the field …
It depends on who I’m talking to. I don’t think I do a good job of explaining it because my family still asks me,“What is it you do again?” I just boil it down to “it’s doctors and computers.” I usually try and go into a little more detail, explaining that technology can help and that the role of informatics and what I do is to find ways that we can make technology help physicians and nurses, and anyone in the healthcare field, give better care. And on the other side, too, with researchers who are discovering new medical knowledge, how can technology help there?
Years of experience:
Total of 15 years in health information technology, but 10 years of that has been focused on informatics.
I started in health information technology because I knew I didn’t have what it took to be a doctor or a healthcare provider, and honestly, just working in health IT made me feel like I could make a difference that way. As I got into it, I realized that the way I was writing software was bad. That I didn’t understand the healthcare side of things as well, and I was making bad software decisions. So, I started to realize that learning about and understanding what the physicians and the nurses and everybody need, that would help me make better software decisions. I didn’t know what informatics was until 2006. Dr. Justin Starren came to Marshfield Clinic, where I was, and he gave a talk on informatics and I was hooked from that second on. It was totally eye opening, just understanding that there was a scientific discipline around this, and that it could really help make an impact on a software developer who was able to understand it. It was really cool to see this bridge between these two worlds that seemed separate to me before. To get more insight into what doctors and other healthcare providers need, I realized I needed to understand the domain in order to be able to be effective. I read as much as I could. Dr. Starren has been a phenomenal mentor to me over the years. He kept introducing me to new things, new challenges, he encouraged me to get out there and shadow doctors.
What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Hopefully this doesn’t sound too cliché. The way my parents raised me was to make the world a better place. Honestly, as vague as that may sound, that’s what I want to do with my career in informatics. There are lots of ways to do that; I want to know that the things that I’m working on can make a difference. If we can save a physician time so that they can spend more time with their family, that’s awesome. If we can help patients, that’s fantastic. There are lots of different ways we can make the world better. I just want to find some way to do that.
Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?
I would say Dr. Starren again. He and I have been working together for about 10 years now, and I credit everything that I’ve done in informatics to him since he’s the one who turned me on to the field. He’s really my go-to person when I have questions and he always has great ideas and we have lots of great discussions about them. I could name a million other names, but there’s probably not enough room for that. I’m involved with the eMERGE [Electronic Medical Records and Genomics] network, which is an NHGRI-sponsored network. It’s one of the areas I’m interested in, and the people involved with it are a great resource. Also JAMIA, JBI and ACI. I read as much as I can when I have free time. And being able to go to conferences. The AMIA conference is awesome.
Articles that spotlight my research interest …
Rasmussen LV, Overby CL, Connolly J, Chute CG, Denny JC, Freimuth R, Hartzler AL, Holm IA, Manzi S, Pathak J, Peissig PL, Smith M, Williams MS, Shirts BH, Stoffel EM, Tarczy-Hornoch P, Rohrer Vitek CR, Wolf WA, Starren J. Practical considerations for implementing genomic information resources. Experiences from eMERGE and CSER. Appl Clin Inform. 2016 Sep 21;7(3):870-82. PubMed PMID: 27652374; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5052555.
Rasmussen LV, Kiefer RC, Mo H, Speltz P, Thompson WK, Jiang G, Pacheco JA, Xu J, Zhu Q, Denny JC, Montague E, Pathak J. A Modular Architecture for Electronic Health Record-Driven Phenotyping. AMIA Jt Summits Transl Sci Proc. 2015;2015:147-51. PubMed PMID: 26306258; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4525215.
Rasmussen LV, Thompson WK, Pacheco JA, Kho AN, Carrell DS, Pathak J, Peissig PL, Tromp G, Denny JC, Starren JB. Design patterns for the development of electronic health record-driven phenotype extraction algorithms. J Biomed Inform. 2014 Oct;51:280-6. PubMed PMID: 24960203; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4194216.
Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA …
Family stuff. I have a 5-year-old son and I’m a kid at heart, and right now my hobbies are playing Legos with my son. I cannot tell you how much I love this because I still have my Legos from when I was a kid, and I was just happy that he got interested in it. We will spend hours in the morning on the weekends building Legos together. Everything with him and my wife that we get to do is great, though, we have a lot of fun together.
AMIA is important to me because …
This is the first group that I really felt a part of. Being a software developer you feel like you have to associate just with the technical crowd. And I never really felt like I fit in at software conferences. So AMIA is important to me because I can go and talk to people about software architecture and clinical process and biological processes. You can be talking to the same person about all those things. For someone who has gotten really interested on the medical side but still loves the technical side, having that mix is just great. And having an organization that supports that is just awesome. These are people who I really cherish talking to and interacting with.
I am involved with AMIA …
I’m going to admit, I’m a bit of a lurker in the working groups. Maybe admitting this is my call to be a little bit more vocal or active. I had an opportunity to be on the Scientific Program Committee for the CRI side of the 2017 Joint Summits on Translational Science conference. That was a great experience, and I’ve always enjoyed being a reviewer for the AMIA conferences. It feels like I’m involved that way. I see myself involved as an evangelist for AMIA too. I’m hooked on informatics, and I want other software developers to see the light like I have.
It may surprise people to know …
I have an alternate ego as an industrial music DJ. I’ve been doing it since college. I did a radio show. I’ve done clubs and festivals. I’ve done a podcast. I don’t do it as much anymore although I will do a podcast once in a while but not as much as I used to. Industrial music itself is not very well-known. It’s a harder electronic style of music – like a mix of techno and metal. It’s kind of like informatics, in that way – it’s a hybrid, and it’s very nuanced.