Many geographic information system projects wrap clinical data—such as the prevalence of uncontrolled diabetes—around easily recognizable maps of cities, counties, or even census tracts.

But surgeon Richard Wait has applied the technology to “maps” not instantly recognizable. Wait, the chairman of the department of surgery at Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, has used GIS technology to analyze tumors in the colon, rectum and liver.

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“The geography is the organ,” he explains. Mapping technology can help surgeons understand the best approach to take when removing tumors. And the technology supports research into how the architecture of the liver may promote tumor growth, he says.

“GIS is a tool, not an entity unto itself. If you fund it, you need to get funding for the other programs GIS helps. The data often cross multiple departments and interest groups, so be as inclusive as you can.”

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