William Hersh, AMIA 2012 SPC Chair
The AMIA Annual Symposium is the world’s premier scientific meeting for biomedical and health informatics, which is the field devoted to the science of using information to improve individual health, health care, public health, and biomedical research. The meeting, however, features more than scientific presentations. It also includes sessions on policy issues, new trends, and other important happenings with thought leaders and others in the field. During the meeting, there are many opportunities to network, catch up with friends and colleagues, and be part of a vibrant community that shares a passion for improving human health through better use of information, assisted with cutting-edge technologies.
The AMIA 2012 Annual Symposium continues a 35-year tradition of scientific leadership in informatics. I have had the opportunity to attend the last 26 consecutive meetings and am still pleased to report that I have learned new things at each and every one. I am amazed at the growth of our field and how much the rest of health care and related disciplines value its contributions. To highlight a few of many accomplishments, the last decade has seen the CTSA initiative that recognizes the importance of informatics in clinical and translational research, the HITECH program that aims to bring electronic health records to all Americans, and the designation of clinical informatics as a medical subspecialty.
Of course, there is plenty of work still to be done. Our approaches and applications are still imperfect and leave room for improvement. We need to build systems that are more usable and attuned to the users’ needs. There is a critical need to overcome safety problems that have been identified with the use of information technology. We need to build human capacity to implement what we have learned from the science through educational and training programs. As with all robust sciences, we must keep a positive but skeptical attitude toward our work, aiming to do good but always viewing our results with a critical eye.
The AMIA 2012 Annual Symposium will continue some innovations started in 2011. Most notable among these was the increase in the paper submissions page limit to 10 pages, which provides authors with sufficient space to describe their research. At the same time, NEW THIS YEAR, we will allow submission of one-page abstracts that will not be indexed in major databases so as not to preclude further publication of the work in scientific journals. We hope that both longer papers as well as abstract submissions will bring forth the best science to the meeting and give researchers maximum flexibility in how they publish their work.
The Symposium will also continue to include all of the other activities that attendees cherish, including posters, panels, tutorials, theatre-style demonstrations, keynote speakers, examples of innovative collaborations with industry, and the “Informatics Year in Review” series that includes overviews of the Joint Summits on Translational Science Bioinformatics and Clinical Research Informatics. The Awards program will continue to recognize distinguished papers, student papers, posters, and signature achievements in biomedical and health informatics.
We also plan some additional innovations for AMIA 2012. One that I am particularly excited about is the new Standard of Practice track. In these sessions, experts and leaders from operational settings will describe key problems and challenges whose solutions have answers in the scientific research of our field. They will provide what all mature professions must have, which is robust and pertinent science that supports operational practice.
Next year’s meeting has one additional special aspect for me personally. The meeting will be taking place in Chicago, IL, which happens to be where I was born, raised, and educated. While AMIA meetings are not new to Chicago, being the Scientific Program Chair of the Annual Symposium when taking place in the Windy City will be very gratifying for me. I look forward to seeing you all in Chicago in November where we can celebrate the accomplishments and address the future challenges of our field.