In addition to the BMI students past and present in attendance, there were members of the program’s faculty and industry advisory group as well, including Cris Doloc, PhD, program instructor and founder of ALGOMEX, Imran Kahn, instructor and member of the leadership team at AbbVie, Susan Nedza, MD, advisor to the program and senior vice president at MPA Healthcare Solutions, and Sam Volchenboumn, PhD, MD, faculty director as well as director at the Center for Research Informatics at the University of Chicago. Their presence heightened the animated discussions that followed on each student’s presentation, with questions that pushed the soon-to-be graduates to situate their work in the broader field of biomedical informatics engagement.
As indicative of the full range of approaches and goals presently occupying workers in the field of biomedical informatics, some projects, like Liarski’s, focused primarily on pure research, while others revolved around uncovering solutions to practical informatics challenges facing healthcare providers today. Exemplifying the latter was Qi He’s project, which used data from 1,885 patients collected at the University of Chicago hospitals to identify an association between oral health status and demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical predictors.
Concluding the day’s presentations was Katherine Naughton, a research technologist for the Ober Lab at UChicago, whose research sought to identify associations in levels of differential DNA methylation with relatedness through using data from individuals from a highly related population.
“Katherine’s project is a really great example of the difference between science-oriented research and research that’s more focused on informatics,” Cox said. “Although the results of Katherine’s project weren’t necessarily groundbreaking from a scientific perspective, the informatics tools she developed to conduct her analysis were very advanced and novel. They will very likely prove useful in a future project whose scientific results could prove significant.”