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Stony Brook Establishes New Department of Biomedical Informatics

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Stony Brook Establishes New Department of Biomedical Informatics

STONY BROOK, N.Y., October 29, 2013 – Stony Brook University has established a new Department of Biomedical Informatics and appointed Joel Saltz, MD, PhD, formerly Chair of Biomedical Informatics at Emory University, to lead the new department as its inaugural Cherith Chair of Biomedical Informatics, announced President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. As the Cherith Chair, Dr. Saltz will have dual appointments in the School of Medicine and in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) under the respective leadership of Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, Senior Vice President, Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine, and Dr. Yacov Shamash, Dean of CEAS. The new department was created to integrate University-wide research across disciplines to advance biomedical research and health care delivery.

Joel Saltz, MD, PhD,  Cherith Chair of Biomedical Informatics

Biomedical Informatics is an emerging field of 21st Century Medicine that uses computer technology to collect and analyze biological data. It encompasses the disciplines of bioinformatics – the use of computational methods to extract meaning from genomic, proteomic, epigenetic and glycomic data sets – and “clinical informatics” – leveraging electronic health systems through data analytics, decision support and human factors design to assure patients received the best possible evidence-based preventive and responsive medical care.   Biomedical Informatics also includes “imaging informatics” – quantitative analysis of clinical and biomedical imagery to better understand disease mechanisms, diagnose disease,  target therapy and predict treatment response.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Saltz, Biomedical Informatics at Stony Brook will help drive scholarship and enable both clinical and research faculty to take advantage of the extraordinary analytical power of this emerging field,” said President Stanley. “More broadly, this is a wonderful example of how the Simons Gift and Simons Foundation matching grant, coupled with SUNY 2020, have made Stony Brook a destination for some of the top scientists in the world.”  

The establishment of a Biomedical Informatics department fulfills one of several key elements of Stony Brook’s strategic plan and its NYSUNY 2020 plan approved by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in 2011. It will allow researchers to not only analyze large biomedical science data sets (i.e., Genomics, Proteomics and multi-modal, multi-resolution imagery)  but also to analyze databases of patient medical records in order to generate testable hypotheses on the origins of various diseases, including cancer, cardiac disease and neurological disorder, and the response to their treatment. Biomedical Informatics will also serve as a vehicle to integrate academics and innovation into the fabric of operations for Stony Brook Medicine to create a living laboratory to explore and implement innovative concepts in its operations at the campus and system level.

The new department is slated to be permanently located in the future Medical and Research Translation (MART) facility, which was made possible partly through the $35 million NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant, through the historic $150 million gift from Jim and Marilyn Simons, and through additional State of New York funds secured by NY State Senators Kenneth LaValle and John Flanagan. 

“Dr. Saltz is a true leader in this emerging field who has overseen and established programs at several prestigious institutions, and we know that he will help lead Stony Brook to new heights in advancing our research mission,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “By mining the information available in patient medical histories, physical examinations, clinical laboratory testing, CT, PET and MRI scans, and pathological samples, collaborative researchers at Stony Brook’s Department of Biomedical Informatics will help us decipher the origins of disease and responses to treatment.”

“Biomedical Informatics not only enhances academic disciplines in medicine, it brings together a broad array of University disciplines, including applied mathematics and computer science to further build University research and discovery,” said Dennis N. Assanis, Provost, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Vice President for Brookhaven Affairs at Stony Brook University. “Working together across disciplines, faculty will incorporate biomedical informatics to develop world-class multidisciplinary research programs and collaborative work with Brookhaven National Laboratory and other external research partners.”

Dr. Saltz served at Emory since 2008 as founding Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and Professor in the School of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and the School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics. He led the Biomedical Informatics PhD Track in Emory’s Computer Science and Informatics Program and ran “Clinical and Translational Informatics Rounds” – monthly lectures and discussions in the area of clinical and translational informatics. At Emory, he helped launch Biomedical Informatics-specific Masters and Doctoral programs, in addition to a myriad of other department specific courses on informatics.

Prior to his appointment at Emory, he served as Professor and Founding Chair of the new Department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine from 2001 to 2008. At Ohio State, he served as Associate Vice President for Health Sciences for Informatics, and he played important leadership roles in the Cancer Center, Heart Institute and Department of Pathology.

Dr. Saltz received his Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in Mathematics at the University of Michigan and then entered the MD/PhD program at Duke University, with his PhD studies performed in the Department of Computer Sciences. He began his academic career in Computer Science at Yale, the Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering at NASA Langley and the University of Maryland College Park. He completed his residency in Clinical Pathology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and served as Professor with a dual appointment at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, serving in the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology. Dr. Saltz is a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics.

While at Emory, Dr. Saltz led the Biomedical Informatics section of the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), the Emory Center for AIDS Research and the Emory Cancer Target Discovery and Development cooperative grant. During his career, he has participated in 70 grants and contracts, serving as principal investigator on half of those, and has contributed to more than 400 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and presentations.


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