Buffalo med school gets $2.5M grant to train informatics researchers

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The State University of New York at Buffalo’s medical school has been awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Library of Medicine to train researchers to analyze and leverage the explosion of healthcare data that is transforming the industry.

Under the NLM grant, the medical school’s Department of Biomedical Informatics will train as many as 15 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in three major areas—clinical informatics, including socio-technical and human-centered design, workflow analysis and cybersecurity; translational bioinformatics, including database management, pharmacogenomics and predictive modeling; and clinical research informatics, including a big data science training program, statistical machine learning and data mining.

According to Peter Elkin, MD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, these training programs are designed to meet the growing need for investigators trained in biomedical computing, data science and related information fields. UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is one of only 17 schools nationally awarded the NLM funding, known as T15, he says.

“Between having this grant and our ACGME-approved fellowship in clinical informatics, it puts us in the top 10 percent of all medical schools in biomedical informatics,” contends Elkin. “Medical schools are often judged on how many of these training grants they have.”

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Founded in 1846, UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is one of the oldest medical schools in the country. However, the institution is distinguishing itself as a leader when it comes to biomedical informatics.

“Increasing our rankings is very important to us and the university at large,” adds Elkin. “So, we’re trying to build a very strong program. Currently, we offer a master’s, a Ph.D. program, postdoctoral training, and then we have a clinical informatics fellowship that’s ACGME-approved toward board certification in clinical informatics. Those people go on to become chief medical information officers at hospitals.”

UB’s Department of Biomedical Informatics was established in 2013, and in 2015, the school was one of only six sites funded nationally as part of the Big Data-Scientist Training Enhancement Program (BD-STEP), funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.

The goal of BD-STEP is to train a new generation of “hybrid” clinical scientists that will utilize data science to develop innovative methods for improving healthcare. Approved sites like UB are providing graduate-level training for trainees who have demonstrated experience in bioinformatics, modeling and management of large data sets.

“Biomedical informatics and big data science are becoming integral parts of science in general, supporting everything we want to do in the future including precision medicine, epidemiology and artificial intelligence in the practice of medicine,” says Elkin.

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