• Faces of AMIA

    Catherine K. Craven, MLS, MA

    I’ve met so many amazing people through AMIA, and many of them have been doing this for 20, 25, 30 years and have all the knowledge in the world.

Catherine K. Craven, MLS, MA

Education: BA, Central Michigan University; MA in Library and Information Science, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; MA in Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; Graduate Certificate in the Business of Medicine, Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University; currently a doctoral student in health informatics at the MU Informatics Institute, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

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

I say that biomedical and health informatics, informatics for short, is about pretty much anything having to do with information systems in health care, from a to z. Informatics includes foundational basic science research on up through very applied research on -- and the practical applications of -- health information technology.

Years of experience

My years of experience in informatics date from 1998. That’s when I was first participating in research teams as the information center manager and librarian for the Medical Informatics Group at University of Missouri. The MIG was founded by Don Lindbergh, MD, the head of the U.S. NIH agency, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which is a national library and also a major research agency that is the seedbed of informatics research, research funding and research training. After working in Columbia area libraries, I came back to MU from 2003-2006 as an NLM Biomedical Informatics Research Training Fellow myself although there was no informatics PhD in place at the time. Then I spent three years at Johns Hopkins as a clinical informationist at Welch Medical Library. I returned to the MU Informatics Institute in July 2010 to complete my PhD now that the degree program is in place. I kept coming back to informatics, or it kept grabbing me, one or the other.

Why informatics?

For me, coming from a medical librarianship background, I know that to understand information retrieval, and to search effectively, you need to understand knowledge representation. And that’s a particularly tricky aspect within healthcare and biomedicine. That’s what first drew me in: the complexity of medical language, the complexity of concepts and the tremendous amount of dedication by everyone I was starting to meet towards solving knowledge representation, retrieval and machine processing problems. Over time, in my own pursuits, I’ve gravitated more toward human and organizational factors in informatics, but knowledge representation will always remain fascinating and at the core. This and the fact that informatics does make a difference. However close or far down the line it might be from your own personal work, you always know that someone’s health and safety on the line. There’s actual patient care at the end of the road. It’s always there, and you know it. I think that when informatics people keep that in mind, it keeps things fresh and it keeps things in perspective.

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

I’d like to think that in some small way I will have made a difference, and I will have helped solve a few small aspects of key problems – and there are so many that still need resolving! Perhaps I will have helped our association accomplish some things because informatics is a big team sport – one that needs AMIA leadership and guidance -- and as a team member, I hope to have made contributions. Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field? My AMIA network! I’ve met so many amazing people through AMIA, and many of them have been doing this for 20, 25, 30 years or more and have all the knowledge in the world. Often they are the ones who created the informatics field. I know them now, and most of the time (laughs), they are genuinely happy to help me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called on that network, particularly in the last year and half since I went back to the University of Missouri to finish my PhD. They’ve always, always been there for me, and they come through no matter how busy they are.

Articles that spotlight my research interests

Look for articles indexed in PubMed over the next year on electronic health record implementation planning processes in Critical Access Hospitals, which is my dissertation topic. These small, rural hospitals make up nearly 23 percent of our hospitals and serve our rural populations. It’s important to know how they are meeting the clinical system implementation opportunities and challenges stemming from the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use. What’s going on now on the ground can inform decision-makers, and it can aid future implementations in small, rural hospitals everywhere. Other research interests are evident in PubMed-indexed publications on Information Prescriptions (IRx) in different clinical settings, and information transfer related to the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act.

AMIA is important to me because…

AMIA is important to me because the people within AMIA have been creating, building and leading this field since its inception more than 40 years ago. I’ve never met a more dedicated group of people in my life.

I am involved with AMIA…

For several years I was the Chair of the Student Working Group. I was the first Students’ Representative to the Board for two years. During that time I collaborated with leaders of the Clinical Information Systems Working Group to create the AMIA Mentorship Program. I am currently finishing my second term as the Chair of the Membership Committee for AMIA (2007-09; 2010-11), which means that I’ve also been serving during that time period on the Working Group Steering Committee, and I am now the Chair-Elect for the Evaluation Working Group. I’ve also served on several Board-appointed task forces, the latest one being the Sharing Knowledge Task Force.

It may surprise people to know…

I love to flower garden. I love to do Pilates and work out. For many years I’ve had my own pack of Fox Hound-Australian Shepherd mix dogs. Not many people have had their own dog packs. Right now I’m down to the last two old men, Rupert and Rudyard Russett; they’re both from the same litter, and they’re 11 and a half years old, but at one point there were many more of them. There were six related dogs from two different rescued litters. It was never a plan to have a pack of dogs, but there’s a serious overpopulation problem here in Missouri, as there is in many places, and I just couldn’t place them all in responsible homes. And they were too amazing and too wonderful to euthanize. I could never imagine living without a dog! To close, here’s a tip for anyone who might be interested: Spend some time waiting tables, which I did to put myself through school, and immerse yourself in your own dog pack. If you’re observant, you’ll learn almost everything you’ll ever need to know about human and organizational dynamics.

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