Emory Report
April 2, 2007
Volume 59, Number 25

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April 2, 2007
New IT division for research and health sciences created, deputy CIO appointed

Donna Price is coordinator of communications and marketing services for Academic and Administrative Information Technology.

The irony of launching a new division on April 1 hasn’t escaped the new director of research and health sciences information technology.

“We’re working with great people for a great mission and with a great team,” said Marc Overcash, the new deputy chief information officer for research and the health science. “And everyone has been so positive and enthusiastic. So, yes, in the back of my mind I was waiting for someone to send me an e-mail on April 1 saying this was an elaborate hoax.”

For the past 15 months, Overcash served as CIO of Rollins School of Public Health, where he restructured the information services department’s services, project planning methodology and technical architecture. From 2002–2005, he worked in varying technical leadership roles within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where he helped to establish the CDC’s National Center for Public Health Informatics and served as chief enterprise architect. Prior to coming to Atlanta, he spent six years building and managing the Internet Technologies Group at Harvard Medical School.

The position reports to Rich Mendola, Emory’s vice president for information technology and CIO, whose leadership spearheaded the creation of the division.

“This division is modeled on the core principles that are reflected in Emory’s vision statement and strategic plan, the Woodruff Health Science’s strategic framework for transforming health and healing, as well as in the NIH roadmap,” said Mendola. “It will facilitate cross-institutional research, focus on innovation and distinction, and enable the seamless sharing of data and information.”

The division has a two fold mission: to advance IT to support research across the entire University and to optimize the academic, administrative and research IT support and services for the academic units of Woodruff Health Sciences.

“It’s a great model since it depends on partnerships — working together with leadership, with researchers and with technologists at all levels of the University and across all units,” said Overcash. “There are a whole lot of opportunities out there.”

Opportunities may include ways to securely share data and collaborate with faculty, staff and students across the multiple schools within the University and with partner organizations; the creation of portals to organize and present services and data tailored to Emory researchers; and the addition of data services that include tools for better access, data quality control and de-identification for critical repositories such as Emory Healthcare’s clinical data warehouse. Other opportunities will include promoting and supporting Emory’s existing and planned supercomputers, and helping to facilitate the creation of an academic informatics program.

One of the focuses of the new division will be providing support for Emory’s application for a Clinical Translational Science Award. The National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, recently funded a consortium of 12 institutions, through CTSA, with the objective of positive transformation of the conduct of clinical and translational research (http://ctsaweb.org/). An additional 52 academic health centers, including Emory, received planning grants to apply for membership in the consortium, which is projected to include 60 institutions nationwide by the year 2012. The consortium represents a new paradigm in how scientific research will be funded in the future and is expected, through opening broader avenues for geographically distributed institutional collaboration, to bring quicker and more efficient translation of research findings into new treatments for patients.