20 of America’s Best Healthcare Informatics Researchers, Professors and Minds

By PokitDok Team,

Health informatics, a fast-growing field which focuses on using information technology to improve healthcare delivery, has countless professional opportunities for the future. From data scientists and out of the box thinking software engineers, to informatics researchers and professors, the future of the wide world of health is an exciting new land of opportunity.

The Affordable Care Act requires that healthcare providers digitize health records by the end of last year and has subsequently, created a tremendous demand for people, with the proper skillsets, to help hospitals, clinics, and practices manage their medical data. "This field is exploding," Charles Friedman, the director of the health informatics program at the University of Michigan, noted in the U.S. News & World Report. "Access to health information on the web is taking off at a meteoric pace. It's creating enormous employment opportunities." Well said, Charles. We agree.

The current generation of researchers at America's colleges and universities will have a profound impact on the field and its future as it continues to grow. With the lightning speed of technological innovation and healthcare ripe for even move innovation, it's an exciting time in healthcare technology to say the least. To celebrate this arguable renaissance, we thought we'd highlight 20 of the field's minds — and a few of our own.


Guanglan Zhang, Boston University

Dr. Zhang's research explores machine learning, knowledge management and data mining. Her own published research goes well beyond that into areas such as the modelling of biological processes. She teaches a master's-level health informatics course in Boston Univeristy's Health Informatics graduate program.


Nich Wattanasin, Brandeis University

Wattanasin studies the unexplored frontiers of health and medical informatics - and how those can be applied within healthcare organizations. His most recently published work explored open-source informatics systems and apps to assist patient recruiting for clinical trials. Wattanasin teaches the Perspectives on Health/Medical Information Systems course in Brandeis' Master of Science in Health & Medical Informatics program.


Denise Gosnell, PokitDok Data Science

Dr. Gosnell, a driving member of the PokitDok Data Science team since 2014, has brought her research in applied graph theory to help architect the graph database while also serving as an analytics thought leader. Her work with the Data Science team aims to extract insight from the trenches of hidden data in healthcare and build products to bring the industry into the 21st century. She also helps organize the local chapter of Charleston Data Analytics, a Meetup PokitDok now sponsors, and has represented PokitDok's Data Science Team at numerous conferences including, PyData, KDD (Knowledge Discovery & Data Mining) and the inaugural GraphDay. Prior to Pokitdok, she earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee - where she founded a branch of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Circle. The goal of this impressive organization is to guide women interested in computer science careers, as TechCrunch noted, and Denise has done that and more.


Vance Cooney, Eastern Washington University

Dr. Cooney has been a professor at Eastern Washington University since 1999 and in 2010 became the coordinator for its Health Informatics program. His own research and experiences have taken him beyond health informatics and into general data management, database building and data analysis.


Angela Kennedy, Louisiana Tech University

Dr. Kennedy, the chair of Louisiana Tech's Department of Health Informatics and Information Management, has more than 24 years of experience in the field, including serving as President and Board Chair of the American Health Information Management Association. She teaches several undergraduate and graduate-level courses in addition to her research, and helps shape policies and standards statewide via committee participation.


Girmay Berhie, Marshall University

Dr. Berhie is the director of the Health Informatics Department at Marshall, where he also leads research into public health policies, global health and EHRs. Dr. Berhie also serves as CEO to a global consultancy that helps private and public organizations with data management, grant writing and IT services.


Tonya Hongsermeier, Northeastern & Harvard

Dr. Hongsermeier is Vice President and Chief Medical Information Officer at Lahey Health, an integrated healthcare system. Previously, she practiced internal medicine and served as a principal informatician at Partners Healthcare System. She is currently a faculty member in the MS in Health Informatics program at Northeastern University and in the Health Information Technology Leadership Course at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.



David Liebovitz, Northwestern University

Dr. Liebovitz is the Director of Northwestern's MS in Health Informatics program, and he serves as CMIO for the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. Much of his work currently centers around developing a system for outpatient medical records for seamless information exchange with Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He also teaches a course titled "Introduction to Clinical Thinking."


Joan Ash, Oregon Health & Science University

Dr. Ash is a professor and the Vice Chair of OHSU's Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, where her research explores the issues related to implementing clinical information systems.

"Her work studying and evaluating the implementation of computerized physician order entry systems and order communication, applying diffusion of innovations theory related to health information systems, and utilizing qualitative methods in informatics has highlighted the importance of the behavioral aspects of systems implementation," writes the American Medical Informatics Association, where she has served on the board of directors.


Dongwen Wang, University of Rochester Medical Center

Dr. Wang is a faculty member at the University of Rochester's Division of Medical Informatics. He is a prolific researcher, with numerous recent publications and awards. Dr. Wang's recent research focuses on modeling biomedical knowledge, managing data within a clinical workflow and developing online resources to share clinical knowledge.


Bonnie MacKellar, St. John's University

Dr. MacKellar helped push St. John's Department of Computer Science, Mathematics and Science to create an undergraduate healthcare informatics program a few years ago so that computer science students would have both a broad foundation and specific knowledge to pursue graduate certifications in the field.

"The national trend in Computer Science is toward broadening students' backgrounds, so they are not just narrowly focused on programming," Dr. MacKellar said at the time the program launched. "The major at St. John's allows that kind of broad background, but also permits in-depth preparation for students who want to go on to graduate school."


Lucila Ohno-Machado, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Ohno-Machado wears many hats. She is the Editor in Chief for the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the Director of San Diego Biomedical Informatics Education and Research, and the chair of UC San Diego's Department of Biomedical Informatics. She also is the director of BRIGHT, an international collaboration among four universities to "train the next generation of informatics researchers."


W. Bryan Smith, PokitDok Chief Scientist

Computational research scientist, W. Bryan Smith, rejoined PokitDok last Fall to take on the role of Chief Scientist. Bryan earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Caltech and lives and breathes data. In just the last few years, Bryan has created predictive models for the valuation of private companies, developed a method for optimizing Facebook ads to increase user acquisition for a game company, and built a predictive model for box office returns based partly on biosensory data. He is excited to be part of the PokitDok team once again and looks forward to positively affect the future of health informatics via data driven decisions and the platform he helped create.


Victoria Wangia, University of Cincinnati

Dr. Wangia is the director for the University of Cincinnati's Masters in Health Informatics program. She earned her Ph.D. in Health Informatics in 2007 from the University of Minnesota, has been a research assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and was a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her work directly influences federal-level policy decisions regarding health IT, EHRs and data security.


Diane Skiba, University of Colorado Denver

Dr. Skiba — an appointee to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, which advises federal cabinet members and lawmakers on nursing issues — has taught health informatics since 1982. Dr. Skiba, who has published or contributed to more than 30 academic books, serves as the university's coordinator for the Health Care Informatics graduate degree specialty.


Larry Pawola, University of Illinois at Chicago

Dr. Pawola, the head of UIC's Health Informatics department and its director of graduate studies, has been a faculty member at the school since 2003. Before that, he spent more than 25 years in the private sector, consulting clients on healthcare IT initiatives and helping manage those projects.


Mallory Nelson, PokitDok EDI Team

Mallory Nelson recently earned her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Georgia, is wildly creative and driven, self-taught iOS developer, and is currently a Pharmacy Systems Analyst at PokitDok. She has a special interest in emerging tech and innovation and prior to her time at PokitDok, created apps that help patients better understand their conditions and treatment options. She also has written several articles for America's Pharmacist magazine. She hopes to share these insights with other pharmacists and positively affect the future of health.


Helen R. Connors, University of Kansas Medical Center

Dr. Connors, having secured more than $5 million in grants and having established numerous statewide partnerships, has been a key figure in the University of Kansas Medical Center growth, particularly in tech-related fields. She is associate dean of integrated technologies at the KU School of Nursing and executive director of the KU Center for Health Informatics.


Charles Friedman, University of Michigan

Dr. Friedman, quoted earlier in the U.S. News piece, is the director of the health informatics program at U-M's Schools of Information and Public Health. Prior to his professorship at the university, Dr. Friedman served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as chief scientific officer of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.


Jessica H. Bailey, University of Mississippi Medical Center

Dr. Bailey is the dean of UMMC's School of Health Related Professions and a professor in its Health Informatics and Information Management program. She also served in two other director positions at the university. Before joining UMMC, Dr. Bailey was the director of health information at Doctors Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi; program director of a health information technology program at Washburn University; and director of a fellowship program for family medicine residents at the University of Missouri.

In sum, here's to the aforementioned 20 - may we work together in our continued effort to pave the way in the evolution of health.


images by:
kherrmann, Allison Foley, Brian Keegan, Adam Sofen

The opinions expressed in this blog are of the authors and not of PokitDok's. The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice.

  Tags: Dev, Health Innovation


  Comments: 2

  1. Tsegazaab T. Weldegebrial

    Dear bloggers;
    I would like to congratulate Dr. Berhie on his remarkable achievement. I am extremely glad to see this rank. He deserves it. He is dedicated, visionary and highly committed to bring up healthcare solutions. Congratulations once again and I certainly hope that he will keep on working hard.
    IT Expert in GeoSAS Consulting http://www.geosas.net
    IT Officer in Capital Hotel & Spa http://www.capitalhotelandspa.com
    Mobile: +251 94 634 99 11
    Skype: tsegazaabt
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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