VUMC launches new public health, informatics center

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center is creating a hub for developing and testing informatics to improve population health and bolster graduate education in public health informatics.

The new Center for Improving the Public’s Health Using Informatics will focus on the “areas of public health reporting and data exchange with healthcare, integration and use of evolving data systems, real-time predictive analytics, population surveillance and risk-adjustment and medical product surveillance,” according to the announcement.

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Co-directed by Michael Matheny, MD, and Melissa McPheeters, the center is a joint venture of VUMC’s Department of Biomedical Informatics and the Institute for Medicine and Public Health and is intended to coordinate with state and national public health agencies.

“To protect and improve the public’s health, the public health system and healthcare must work closely together, and academic health centers have a tremendous opportunity to help bridge the gap and support our public health partners,” says McPheeters. “We will do this through innovative projects and research to test best practices, as well as filling a tremendous need for capacity in the public health informatics workforce.”

McPheeters, a research professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Biomedical Informatics, recently returned to VUMC after serving three years as an assistant commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Health, where she built an informatics program that included advanced analytics to counter the opioid crisis.

“With the explosion of data science and increasing access to public and private data sources, we can innovate with new methods and frameworks to improve methods and processes in areas of analytics, reportable conditions, and medical product surveillance, and to work with operational partners to disseminate these developments,” says Matheny, an associate professor in the Departments of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics and Medicine, who has been at VUMC for 12 years and has developed a research program in risk prediction modeling, natural language processing, and medical product surveillance.

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