Graham School launches Master of Science degree in biomedical informatics

Program builds clinician and researcher knowledge in rapidly growing field

University Communications

Biomedical informatics, one of the world’s fastest-growing interdisciplinary fields, is the latest graduate degree program offered by the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

The University brings together its faculty and programs in genomic research, translational medicine and computation within the new Master of Science Degree in Biomedical Informatics. Thirteen students are registered for spring quarter.

This program is unique in its combination of in-person instruction and industry-based capstone projects, made possible through relationships with healthcare organizations like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and nonprofit institutions such as NORC at the University of Chicago.

The MScBMI is designed for working adults. The part-time program offers an individualized approach to each student, providing direct access to discussion-based classroom instruction and team-based experiences. The program has appointed two faculty directors: David McClintock, assistant professor of pathology and medical director of pathology informatics; and Samuel Volchenboum, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Research Informatics. Serving as program director is Suzanne Cox, who previously oversaw the development of the Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program, including a concentration in Health and Biomedical Informatics, at Northwestern University.

The landscape of technology and healthcare is the driving force behind the Biomedical Informatics program, Volchenboum said. “It’s becoming easier for clinicians, researchers and technicians to use powerful informatics tools to analyze data, yet it’s never been more important for healthcare professionals to understand those tools and methods,” he said. “By going through this program, physicians, nurses and others in healthcare will be able to use and analyze data much more effectively—resulting in improved medical care. This programmatic approach has the potential to completely change the medicine and science behind the data.”

Students entering the program—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, IT professionals and others working in the biomedical field—will broaden their understanding of the many disciplines within biomedical informatics, while also securing subspecialty knowledge through intensive instruction in select areas.

“Students will see great benefit in learning from and networking with some of the nation’s most highly respected faculty and leaders in biomedical informatics,” said Susan Nedza, senior vice president of clinical outcomes management at MPA Healthcare Solutions. Nedza is a member of the program’s advisory council, a former chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and vice president at the American Medical Association. “Tremendous opportunities exist to pursue scholarly and translational research by collaborating with industry-based experts on capstone projects,” she said.

The new master’s degree program offers a curriculum aimed at providing both breadth in biomedical informatics training—from the basics of electronic health records systems to cutting-edge medical research—and depth in students’ area of interest. Upon completion, graduates will have a strong knowledge of how biomedical information systems are created and managed, and how they can use informatics to collect, manage, store and understand data critical to health outcomes.

Volchenboum explained that advances in biomedical informatics knowledge and practice will bring new opportunities to improve healthcare safety, quality and cost-effectiveness. This degree will provide proper training to “ensure these professionals understand the fundamentals of computer programming and statistics and also advance their skill sets in collecting, analyzing, interpreting and applying data. This will enable more rigorous and informed decision-making to drive innovation in care delivery,” he said.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, the U.S. currently faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field, and research shows that demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall.

The program is accepting applications for the Autumn quarter. Deadlines are June 1 for early decision and international admission, and June 30 for regular admission. Students entering MScBMI who are interested in additional preparation can enroll in two boot camp courses that provide a fast-paced, rigorous introduction to biostatistics and an overview of clinical care systems. Prospective applicants interested in more information on admissions requirements and course schedules can visit the Graham School website.