From analyzing vast DNA sequences to handling electronic medical records, the importance of big data in medicine has increased dramatically in recent years. To support the growing need to manage and harness big data, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is launching an Institute for Informatics and has named its first director.
The field of biomedical informatics is concerned with the optimal use of information, often aided by the use of technology and people to improve individual health, health care, public health and biomedical research. The new institute will capitalize on the School of Medicine’s existing informatics expertise and infrastructure in genomics, clinical informatics and imaging informatics and provide a central platform for coordinating current efforts and building new programs to advance medical research, education, patient care and public health.
“We are excited to be launching this new institute to support and enhance Washington University’s already extensive expertise in clinical informatics, imaging informatics and bioinformatics,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “The institute will help focus the informatics landscape at the School of Medicine as we seek ways to transform research, education and patient care, especially in support of precision medicine and efforts to improve the quality of health care and public health initiatives locally, nationally and worldwide.”
The School of Medicine has a long history of strong informatics research, which has allowed Washington University to take important leadership roles in national bioinformatics efforts, including the Human Genome Project, the Connectome Project and the very recent efforts to understand and quantify the microbiome.
To lead the new institute, Washington University has tapped Philip R.O. Payne, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University. A search committee selected Payne from a group of the highest qualified candidates nationwide because of his combination of expertise in biomedical informatics research and education, as well as his experience in growing the academic informatics program at OSU, including doubling the number of faculty members and the amount of external funding for the department over five years.
Payne’s tenure as head of the new institute will begin July 1.
“I am thrilled to welcome Philip Payne to Washington University,” Perlmutter said. “He is a national leader in informatics with experience in strategic planning, scholarship and entrepreneurship. Under his leadership, I’m confident that this new institute will foster a world-class environment in which informatics enriches all aspects of the institution.”
With Payne at the helm, the new institute will coordinate informatics efforts across the Medical Campus and include partnerships with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Institute for Public Health, the Brown School, the Olin School of Business, the Innovations Incubator at BJC HealthCare and the Cortex Innovation Community.
Payne holds a doctoral degree in biomedical informatics from Columbia University as well as master’s degrees in medical and biomedical informatics from Columbia. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego.
In 2006, he took a faculty position in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Ohio State. He rose rapidly, becoming chair of the department in 2010. Payne’s research program has focused on computational methods for cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as the use of knowledge-discovery techniques in order to accelerate clinical and translational research.
In addition to his current role as department chair at OSU, Payne directs the Data Science Cluster within the university’s CTSA-funded Center for Clinical and Translational Science and also serves as the inaugural director for Translational Data Analytics @ Ohio State, a program within the university’s Discovery Themes Initiative. These efforts include working to establish a universitywide institute for data analytics that serves as the physical and virtual home for team science programs that seek to address problems with global impact. Payne’s responsibilities also include managing the shared resources for bioinformatics, clinical research informatics and biostatistics that service more than 2,000 faculty, staff and trainees at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.
Payne also holds an appointment as a professor of health services management and policy in the OSU College of Public Health, where he oversees and participates in collaborative educational programs and training in biostatistics, epidemiology and informatics. He also is involved in a variety of entrepreneurial activities, including serving as executive-in-residence for OSU’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer. Further, he founded Signet Accel LLC, a health information technology spinoff company that has successfully commercialized data sharing and interoperability software developed by OSU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics.
He is an elected fellow in the American College of Medical Informatics and has authored more than 175 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, abstracts, editorials and technical reports in his field. In 2011, he received a leadership award from the American Medical Informatics Association for his service to the field and the creation of a new national community-of-practice, focusing on the area of clinical research informatics. He also serves in editorial positions for numerous peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Journal of Biomedical Informatics, and BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.
“Philip Payne is exactly the right person to lead this new institute, bringing together deep expertise in clinical, imaging and biological research that already exists here and shaping a new academic home for informatics at the School of Medicine and university,” Perlmutter said. “By strengthening our commitment to excellence in informatics, we are supporting our mission to advance biomedical research and improve the quality of health care.”
The search committee was co-led by Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD, vice chancellor for research and professor of molecular microbiology; and Bradley A. Evanoff, MD, director of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and the Richard A. and Elizabeth Henby Sutter Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.