Emory Report
September 2, 2008
Volume 61, Number 2



Emory Report homepage  

2, 2008
Informatics advances health, quality initiatives

Fred Sanfilippo is executive vice president for health affairs, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and chairman of Emory Healthcare.

As a new semester gets under way, it’s time to welcome some new faces to campus.

One we’re excited about in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is Joel Saltz, who joins us this week as director of the new Center for Comprehensive Informatics and as Emory Healthcare’s chief medical information officer. In this capacity, he will chair the Comprehensive Informatics Leadership Committee; guide strategic planning for the Emory Medical Information Enterprise; and help launch a new joint Department of Biomedical Informatics between our School of Medicine and the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, analogous to our top-ranked Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Saltz is a pioneer in the fields of high-performance computing and biomedical informatics with more than 325 publications and 70 invited presentations to his credit, along with more than $4.7 million in NIH funding and some $70 million in total active grant funding. Among his many noteworthy achievements is a leadership role in the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), an initiative of the National Cancer Institute Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology. caBIG helps cancer researchers, clinicians and patients collaborate effectively, share relevant data and information, and speed translation of new cancer diagnostics and therapies from the laboratory to the community.

So what is informatics, and what does it mean to Emory? Look at it this way. Scientific advances, including the mapping of the human genome, have generated an almost unfathomable amount of data — billions of random, often disconnected bits of information. Informatics stores, catalogs and retrieves relevant data, turning it into knowledge that can be practically applied to make a significant impact on health and healing. It’s more than just cutting-edge information technology; it’s the application of that technology to solve complex medical problems.

Informatics also is key to advancing some of WHSC’s major initiatives. For example, informatics is necessary to fully realize the unlimited possibilities of the Predictive Health Initiative. Ultimately, using data about each individual’s biology, behavior and environment will help him or her maintain and restore health. Informatics can advance that goal by translating such data at the point of service to help predict and prevent potential disease, as well as to predict a patient’s response to treatment for existing illness.

The impact of informatics on high-quality clinical care is obvious. By helping to predict the onset of disease and the treatments that are most likely to be successful, informatics is the optimal way to empower informed, effective decision-making for patients and providers. It will also support the ongoing development of the Emory Electronic Medical Record and aid in the development and management of clinical trials that lead to new, more successful therapies for patients.

The addition of Saltz is a significant milestone for the WHSC and its ability to continue transforming health and healing … together.

We welcome your feedback at evphafeedback@emory.edu.