A lively, non-technical conversation (with the occasional surprise) about newsworthy topics in biomedical informatics.
Genome-informed Care Decisions: Welcome to Cutting-edge Medicine!
Hello and welcome to Informatics in the Round, a podcast designed to help everyone become a part of the dialog about topics in biomedical informatics.
To paraphrase Dorothy, “Exomes and genomes and VUSes…oh my!” Time to go back to high school biology, but not the version most of us took!!!!….the one they’re teaching now. Our fourth episode of this year covers a very current informatics topic—how health care is using your genomic information to understand your symptoms and your diagnoses. This idea of genome-informed medicine is a major part of precision medicine. It’s been at the center of cancer therapy for a few decades and is now becoming a part of health care beyond cancer. Here’s the rub: most doctors don’t know very much about it. So it’s up to those of us who understand it and who specialize in informatics to come to the rescue. You’ll meet three such informatician/genomic medicine experts on this episode.
Sarah Bland, one of the most insightful and quick-witted people I have the pleasure of working with is on this podcast as both an expert in the issues and as the person who keeps it real.
Melissa McPheeters is a public health informatics and epidemiology expert. For those of you who’ve been listening to IIR for over a year, you’ve heard Melissa discuss COVID with us before. However, her other life at Vanderbilt has been helping to coordinate and think critically about how we can bring patient’s genomics into the care of everyday physicians and advanced practices nurses. As you’ll see, although this is a relatively new area for her, she has mastered much of it!
Travis Osterman is a physician I’ve often called the doctor’s doctor (at least this doctor, should I ever get cancer.) He’s the consummate professional and a terrific communicator. Because of his expertise in cancer informatics, he’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the country about genome-informed care, and brings that knowledge to a very challenging discussion.
We start off the discussion not with a songwriter/singer, but with a Songwriter/singer’s most essential team member. Gaelyn Garrett is Senior Executive Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Voice Center, Guy M. Maness Chair, Laryngology and Voice, and Professor of Otolaryngology.
21st Century Cures: Curing our Anxiety or Causing It?
Our third episode of this year covers a very important, timely, and relevant topic. Every so often the Federal government passes landmark legislation. We’re going to see what’s happening at Vanderbilt, which is a microcosm of what’s happening in your world as a result of 21st Century Cures and the specific actions it is requiring to stop information blocking. Huh? Yea, we’ll get into what that means. We have Dr. Trent Rosenbloom, an expert in biomedical informatics and especially technologies that are used by patients to manage their health information. Trent’s been at the forefront of this issue and has way more than one podcast to share with us. We might well have him back in a few months to discuss how this is going in more detail.
Trent is joined by Sarah Bland, one of the very insightful and quick witted people I have the pleasure of working with on this podcast from time to time. Thanks, Sarah, as always. Although the masks she was wearing on our zoom recording were next-level weird. You’ll see those pics on our podbean-based website for Informatics in the Round, on our Facebook site, on Twitter, on Instagram, and maybe soon even on TikTok!
One thing I love about Nashville—Music City as it’s often called—is that you can find a fantastic singer or songwriter almost everywhere you look. This episode is no exception! Will Comstock, one of the amazing, affable, and always professional administrative staff in my department, is also a wonderful musician and songwriter and blessed this show with his voice and his creativity. He also, by the way, shared an important piece of personal insight, from which part of the opening clip was snipped.
Phenotyping: What Makes You Not Average?
Our second episode of this year is fascinating. What do phenotypes, COVID, Cancer, Spiderman, and Jurassic Park have in common? Well, we talk about almost all of this in the episode, but I bring up Spiderman now, and the Peter Parker principle (With great power comes great responsibility....)
We welcome back Shannon Rich (@richones1), a regular on this show and a constant boost of energy and cynicism. Jane Bach (@janebach) also returns for this episode, with a great song that hints at the subtext of our conversation.
Wei QI Wei, PhD (@weiweiqi) is a national expert in phenotyping— the science of using analytics and natural language processing to uniquely identify subgroups of people in a medical record system who have specific defining characteristics.
Jane was kind enough to send me a fabulous recording of "I Am One" written by Jane Bach, Sandra Piller, Jeanie McQuinn. Vocals by Briana Tyson. Copyright Piller Sounds Music Publishing (ASCAP), Great Big River Music (BMI). Check out that lyric video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyKN0Gk2-3M
COVID and the Hidden Data Gap
Season 2 is here! Our first episode of this year should have the theme, meeting guests where they are. We welcome back Sarah Bland who is a regular on the podcast, for which I’m very thankful. Sarah is a leading project manager in our biomedical informatics department, and is extremely knowledgeable about informatics and precision medicine, very funny, but who also has life experiences very relevant to this episode that she shares.
Alissa Abeler and Hannah Smith are a wonderful team. In their professional life they are the singer/songwriter duo called The Daily Fare. Check out their brand of Indie Americana music in this episode and on their website
https://www.thedailyfaremusic.com or on Facebook. They also have had "quite the year" and take this episode in a critical direction. Thank you!
Dr. Colin Walsh is a national expert in predictive analytics (AI, machine learning) focusing on mental health and behavioral disorders. Colin is a physician who cares deeply about wellness issues.
So, what data do we need to manage life after COVID? That was the initial focus of the episode. But one of the themes of the conversation is what are the questions people need to be asking today so that we can capture the information they need us in healthcare to know?
Speaking of questions, I need to hear from you about topics you want us to cover. I’m on Twitter @KBJVanderbilt, and you can also leave me comments on my Facebook site for informatics in the round, or on this site.
The Journey: Acknowledging our Path in our Profession
We conclude the 2020 year with an episode that straddles informatics education and social issues. Oliver Bear Don’t Walk is a PhD candidate doing informatics research in the Columbia University Department of Biomedical Informatics. He’s joined by Suzanne B. Bakken, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FACMI, one of the world’s most prominent figures in informatics, and Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University. In addition to her international acclaim as a nursing informaticist, Suzanne currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for JAMIA--arguably the premier journal in biomedical informatics.
This episode features a sensitive and often private topic, and we all had a chance to bear our souls (present speaker included.) I would summarize our discussion as being focused on one two-word phrase. Academic code-switching. If you’ve never heard of code-switching, it's the process of “fitting in” by borrowing a phenotype, or a way of appearing, that hides your true identity. We hear about it a lot in the corporate workplace, where women have to act like male counterparts, or even in communities, where phrases like “man up” or “uncle Tom” reflect an inability to code-switch. This may not sound like informatics, but let me assure you, it impacts the field in very insidious ways that we hear from all three of the speakers at different times.
We also have the honor of being joined by Nolan Neal (https://nolanneal.com/) who is a phenomenal artist, with a very distinctive musical presence. I met Nolan here in town at the Hotel Indigo with two of my dear friends after a concert. His performance in the hotel lounge was the best performance of the night! We since chatted, and I discovered how much his story reminds us all of how much our journeys NEED to be reflected in our work. Nolan ends the episode by playing a new song, called "The Man I Used to Be." It's a journey song if ever I've heard one, and it's powerful but also an anthem for all who are aware of straying from their path and trying to get back on it. Thanks, my friend.
Please hear about his journey on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WHNFIqh6V8
Of course, he has music out there and more on the way, so feel free to visit his website and enjoy!
Trust, Information and Metadata
This episode includes a number of people who’ve become regulars of late:
Shannon Rich is funny, irreverent, but also at times seriously frustrated, and all that comes out in the hour plus of this discussion.
Jane Bach, one of the world’s well-known songwriters, returns and also has a lot to say.
Dax Westerman, an incredibly thoughtful and articulate software engineer at Vanderbilt, and the man responsible for the name of this podcast, joins us. This was a topic of interest to him, and I have to agree that it was a great idea!
Nicholas (Nick) Lemann, the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of Columbia University. In addition to his work as an academician at Columbia University, Nick is a staff writer for the New Yorker, a five-time book author, a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Nick was the perfect person to lead the discussion we had on this episode.
If I could summarize this entire podcast in one word, it would be metadata. Specifically, we discuss metadata in the real world, and how we who live in this world should learn to interpret data. These hidden data tell us a bit about what to trust, versus what may be opinion. And we learn that sometimes different generations have outdated beliefs about the source of objective data!
It’s a bit of a heady episode, but boy did I enjoy listening to it again. I hope you find it educational. You’ll hear a few major themes—like trust versus opinion, objective versus subjective, and knowing what to do to stay safe during the pandemic.
Please listen to this one in its entirety. It’s meant for all of us to hear and digest, and it could help you get through this pandemic.