New biomedical informatics doctoral program spans all health professions

Annette Valenta, Biomedical and Health Information Sciences

Annette Valenta, professor of biomedical and health information sciences.

The University of Illinois at Chicago will offer a new doctoral program in biomedical and health informatics to begin next fall, with an approach that encompasses all aspects of health care.

The Ph.D. program will emphasize research and scholarship, requiring at least 40 hours of research in a focus area.

The federal government has invested heavily in health information technology over the past six years, says Annette L. Valenta, professor of biomedical and health information sciences and director of graduate studies.

“Now we have all this data and must push the limits of informatics to extract usable information,” she said, to improve quality, safety and efficiency.

“Also, we have placed technology in more peoples’ hands than ever before, and must now explore ways to overcome the usability challenges that have emerged.”

The focus on research and “inter-professionality” — which Valenta says means working in teams drawn from a range of professions or organizations — will differentiate the new doctorate from UIC’s highly ranked master’s degree in health informatics, an online program that teaches knowledge and skills that working health care professionals can apply immediately.

“We’re collaborating with colleagues throughout UI Health, a system dedicated to health equity,” Valenta said. “The students’ research will respond to challenging informatics questions that involve all the health professions across all health care settings—urban and rural.”

The Ph.D. program will be campus-based, with a research model that assigns two mentors to each student: a primary mentor for specialized research and a secondary mentor for methodology. Mentors may come from any of UIC’s seven health science colleges, or from the colleges of engineering, business administration or liberal arts and sciences.

Valenta noted that the Institute of Medicine’s 2003 report on Health Professions Education identified informatics as one of the five core-competencies for all health professionals.

“Our curriculum prepares students to solve today’s complex knowledge management issues and to work with health care teams of professionals to make sure the informatics work for them,” she said.



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