UB’s biomedical informatics department to have new undergraduate major this fall

Department chair discusses the critical, growing field of health and social data


As the field of health informatics grows around the country, UB is taking note and starting a major at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences this fall. 

Biomedical informatics uses biological health and social data to improve data analytics, discovery and decision-making practices. UB’s biomedical informatics department works in a range of areas, including electronic health records, clinical decision-making support systems, clinical genomics and proteomics. The department will start an undergraduate program, which is a pre-med, pre-dental, pre-nursing and pre-pharmacy program. 

Peter Elkin, chair of the biomedical informatics department, said he believes biomedical informatics is one of the “drivers of the future of healthcare.”

“The field of biomedical informatics has grown considerably from a relatively small group of people in the 1960s to about 4,000 or so clinicians and scientists in the country that practice this rapidly growing profession,” Elkin said. “It’s been a pleasure to see the tremendous growth of the field in the country and internationally — now biomedical informatics is recognized as being central to almost all team-based research in the United States.”

Health informatics is a growing medical field, as employment is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016-26, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elkin’s department has worked in artificial intelligence and knowledge-based systems, including diagnostic and treatment-decision support systems. Elkin said the future of biomedical informatics will bring an increase of predictive analytics into medicine, which will help make medicine safer.

“In the future, I [also] believe we are going to increasingly see bio-surveillance of our patients, where we are monitoring the care that our patients are receiving,” Elkin said. “We will be there more quickly to take care of the problems that arise leading to safer and more effective medical care for our patients.”

The department worked on a program, which analyzes the prevalence of micro biomes in populations around the world. The program allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have people watch for symptoms of outbreak.

Steven Brown, an associate professor of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University, is currently working for the department of veteran affairs at the university’s health informatics office.

Brown said the biomedical informatics field would be great for students and is an “exciting, fun chance to give back to society.”

Elkin said biomedical informatics’ fellows are going to be national leaders in academic medicine as well as hospital systems. He said biomedical informatics is an “outstanding career” and encourages anyone interested in the field to work with his department at the JSMBS.

“If you [are interested], as it has been a great career for me, I think that [students] who choose to go into biomedical informatics could have an even more advanced and brilliant career than I have had. Help us create the future.”

 Dana Moukheiber is a contributing writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com.