Renowned expert named inaugural director of UAB Informatics Institute

James Cimino, one of the nation’s leaders in using ‘big data’ resources to advance patient care, research and education, will head UAB’s new Informatics Institute.

cimino webJames J. Cimino, M.D., has been named the inaugural director of the Informatics Institute in the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The institute was established by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System in June 2014.

Cimino, who previously was the chief of the Laboratory for Informatics Development at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center and a senior scientist at the National Library of Medicine, is a national leader in the burgeoning field of biomedical informatics. He is one of the few informaticians in the prestigious Institute of Medicine and co-editor of the most influential textbook on informatics, Biomedical Informatics: Computer Applications in Health Care and Biomedicine, Fourth Edition.

“We are extremely gratified that an informatician and physician of Dr. Cimino’s caliber will lead our new Informatics Institute,” said Selwyn Vickers, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. “Informatics is a relatively new, but incredibly important field, and its reach encompasses all aspects of medicine.”

Biomedical informatics is the science of collecting, representing, storing, retrieving and processing data and knowledge for the ultimate purpose of improving human health.

“The successful recruitment of such a renowned expert in the field reflects the deep commitment across all of UAB to a shared vision of being among the nation’s elite universities and academic medical centers,” said Ray L. Watts, M.D., UAB president. “We are firm in our commitment and desire for UAB to be an informatics beacon.”

Under Cimino’s leadership, the Informatics Institute will:

  • Design, enhance, and support the strategic use of data across the UAB enterprise.
  • Develop software for improved patient care, clinical operations and research.
  • Provide informatics expertise and resources to support personalized medicine services for UAB patients and biomedical research support to investigators.
  • Expand educational opportunities to train institutional and national leaders in informatics, from the undergraduate to terminal degrees.
  • Build an enterprise that will become a recognized national program in informatics research and implementation.

“I’m excited to come to UAB and help build an enterprise that can employ techniques of informatics to ‘big data’ resources for the benefit of patient care, research and education,” said Cimino. “Our goal is to create an internationally renowned center for informatics research, development, training and service. I believe UAB is uniquely positioned with the resources, leadership and infrastructure to achieve these goals.”

“Informatics is a discipline that brings data together and synthesizes it into new knowledge. In many ways, it is the connective tissue that allows us to integrate the diverse expertise found within UAB. It will be invaluable in the development of personalized medicine. It will improve the delivery of health care. It will help us understand health challenges facing the state and nation, and it will teach us how best to manage resources to provide optimal care for each population.”

Cimino will also be co-director of the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which has a major on-campus presence in informatics, providing the means to collect clinical data at the point of care and use those data for clinical, translational and outcomes research from bench to bedside and back. 

Planning for the institute dates to the creation of the Informatics Working Group, drawn from schools, departments and centers across campus, which has met regularly for the past two years to establish a framework for the establishment of the institute.

“Informatics is a discipline that brings data together and synthesizes it into new knowledge,” said Robert P. Kimberly, M.D., senior associate dean for research for the School of Medicine. “In many ways, it is the connective tissue that allows us to integrate the diverse expertise found within UAB. It will be invaluable in the development of personalized medicine. It will improve the delivery of health care. It will help us understand health challenges facing the state and nation, and it will teach us how best to manage resources to provide optimal care for each population.”

Vickers says the UAB Informatics Institute will help transform UAB into a learning health-care system, a concept pioneered by the Institute of Medicine six years ago. According to the IOM, such systems generate and apply the best evidence for the collaborative health-care choices of each patient and provider, drive the process of discovery as a natural outgrowth of patient care and ensure innovation, quality, safety and value in health care.

“I believe UAB has the visionary leadership in place that will allow us to bring the benefits of cutting-edge informatics to health care, energize our research community and add vibrancy to our educational programs to create the transdisciplinary professionals needed to thrive in our learning health-care system of the future,” Vickers said.

After graduating from Brown University and earning a medical degree at New York Medical College, Cimino interned and completed residency training in medicine at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York. He then completed a research fellowship in medical informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. He was a professor of biomedical informatics and medicine at Columbia University, where he pioneered work on biomedical ontologies and a decision support tool called “infobuttons”.

In 2008, he accepted a dual appointment with the NIH Clinical Center and the National Library of Medicine, where he built the Biomedical Translational Research Information System (BTRIS), a trans-NIH repository of clinical research data.

Cimino was elected to the Institute of Medicine’s Class of 2014. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Medical Informatics, for which he served as president from 2011 to 2012. He has served on the board of directors of the American Medical Informatics Association. In 2006 he received the Medal of Honor from New York Medical College and was elected to fellowship in the New York Academy of Medicine. He has received both the Donald A. B. Lindberg Award for Innovation in Informatics and the President's Award from the American Medical Informatics Association. He is a two-time recipient of the NIH Clinical Center Director’s Award

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