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Academic Update

Volume 3, Issue 10          May 17, 2013

Congratulations SBMI 2012-2013 Graduates!

Commencement for the 2012-2013 academic year at The School of Biomedical Informatics was held on Wednesday, May 8. Twelve graduates of the 34 students who graduated in the 2012-2013 academic year participated in the commencement ceremony. The commencement address was given by Kevin Fickenscher, MD, CPE, FACPE, FAAFP, President and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association, who spoke about leadership and where informatics is headed. After the ceremony, students, faculty, staff and guests celebrated at the dean’s reception—a fiesta featuring sombreros, tex-mex and tasty refreshments.

SBMI had 9 new graduates in Spring 2013. Congratulations and good luck in your future endeavors!

New graduates include:


Degree Program

Jennifer K. Gardner

Master of Science in Applied Health Informatics

Naveen R. Kommera

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Louis Lee

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Anna Lisina

Master of Science in Applied Health Informatics

Laura A. Millecker

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Naqi Mohammad

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Shoko Nakamae

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Nathaniel T. Smith

Master of Science in Health Informatics

Jonathan Wolfarth

Master of Science in Health Informatics

If the video does not appear, please click here
View the photos from commencement

Come one, come all: SBMI Media Lab Open House


The new SBMI Media Lab located in UCT 865 is ready for use. We invite all faculty, employees and students to an open house on Thursday, May 30. Come any time between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to ask our technology experts any questions that you have about the technologies for multimedia production, eLearning and mLearning content development and usability testing.

SBMI Students Elect the New SGO Officers

Students at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics elected Mehdi Rais, MD, MS, Jonathan Wolfarth, RN-BC, MS, and Rafeek Yusuf, MD, to serve on SBMI’s Student Governance Organization (SGO) starting on the closing day of the election—April 26 at 11:59 p.m. After the election, the elected officers and the SGO faculty advisor, Hongbin Wang, PhD, chose among themselves who would serve in the officer roles. The group selected Rafeek Yusuf, MD, to be the SGO president, Mehdi Rais, MD, MS, to be the SGO vice president and Jonathan Wolfarth, RN-BC, MS, to be the SGO secretary.

SBMI Student Body Elects This Year's Distinguished Educator

Trevor CohenTrevor Cohen, MBChB, PhD, was awarded the 2012-2013 John P. McGovern Outstanding Teaching Award at The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston. “My discussions with Dr. Cohen are always a scientific journey,” One SBMI student said. “He guides students to find the solution or understand the question—lots of thinking, lots of learning, and at the end of the day, you feel very accomplished and proud of being a researcher or a ‘geek’.”

SBMI's Inaugural Distinguished Alum Award

John FrenzelJohn C. Frenzel, MD, MS, a 2002 graduate of SBMI’s Master of Science in health informatics program, is the first recipient of Distinguished Alum Award. Prior to earning his informatics degree from SBMI, Frenzel received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology from Emory University and a medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. Frenzel currently serves as the Chief Medical Information Officer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he also serves as a professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.

When accepting the award, Frenzel focused his remarks on the 2013 graduates and the impact they will make in health care. He also referenced the challenges medicine faces today, like the need for safety, quality of care, efficiency and effectiveness—all of which will be addressed and solved not through medicine, though it plays a role, but through information technology and the work of informaticians.

Spring Poster Session & Career Panel

SBMI hosted the Spring Poster Session and Career Panel on Monday, May 6, during which the school also held the inaugural prospective student event “SBMI CONNECT 2013”. To kick off the event, students presented research at the poster session and were judged by students, alumni and faculty. The Paul C. Boyle Award for Excellence in Research was given to the highest scoring poster. Scott Sittig, MS, took home the spring 2013 Boyle award for his poster titled “Improving Diabetic Patient Outcomes through a Diabetic Patient Access Portal.” Students in the applied health informatics program presented posters the following day in Second Life to close out the spring semester.

Following the poster session was the Career Panel. Four SBMI alumni—Jonathan Ishee, MPH, MS, LLM, JD; Stephen Jones, MD, MS; Nnaemeka Okafor, MD, MS; and Muhammad Walji, PhD—shared their unique career path in informatics and gave advice to potential and current students hoping to break into the field. As a part of the event, SBMI CONNECT 2013 allowed prospective students (totaling 29 attendees) to view student research, hear about career opportunities in informatics and interact with faculty, alumni, students and staff. The event was quite a success for all parties involved!

If the video does not appear, please click here
View the photos from the event

New SBMI Alumni Association President

Muhammad Walji, PhDMuhammad Walji, PhD, will serve as the new president of the SBMI Alumni Association. Walji received a Master of Science degree in health informatics in 2002, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in health informatics in 2006. He is the director of informatics and an associate professor at the UTHealth School of Dentistry. He also serves as a researcher and adjunct professor at SBMI.

Student Interprofessional Team Wins H-GEC Contest
SBMI Master's Student Among Them

H-GECThe “Forget-Me-Nots,” a 10-member team of students from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), the University of Houston and Texas Woman’s University, won first place at the 2013 Geriatric Interprofessional Student Competition. The winning team included UTHealth students Gwendolyn Brobbey, MD, MPH, (biomedical informatics), Deep Pujara (public health) and Erika Wood, MPH, (medicine); as well as TWU and UH students. This year, 55 students competing in five teams took on the challenge of performing a needs assessment in assigned communities in Houston to evaluate potential success of establishing a “Memory Café” in those areas. The Forget-Me-Nots evaluated Houston’s Third Ward and identified Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church as a potential site for a Memory Café.

Grants Awarded to SBMI Faculty
An Insilico Method for Epidemiological Studies Using Electronic Medical Records

Hua Xu, PhD, new SBMI associate professor, had a NIH/NCI grant transferred from Vanderbilt University, which proposes to develop an automated informatics approach to extract both fine-grained cancer findings and general clinical information from electronic medical records and use them to conduct cancer related epidemiological studies.

SBMI Alumnus Receives UNMC New Investigator Award

Ashish JoshiAshish Joshi, MD, PhD, SBMI PHD graduate, was honored at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s April 30 ceremony as one of the 16 researchers to receive the 2012 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Awards.

Joshi works as an assistant professor at the Center for Global Health and Development and the Department of Health Services Research Administration in UNMC’s College of Public Health. His research focuses on designing and developing innovative, accessible and affordable heath technologies to improve access, alleviate health literacy, reduce health disparities and enhance population outcomes among individuals living in diverse global settings.

Ethics as the Core of the Curriculum: The Next Innovation in Education


UTHealth McGovern Center is hosting their inaugural ethics conference as it relates to interprofessional education June 2-3 at the Texas Medical Center Marriot. The conference will feature presentations on teaching ethics through the humanities and many healthcare fields, with emphases on nursing and medicine. Guest speakers include Margaret Edson, Pedro ‘Joe’ Greer, MD; Marin Gillis, PhD; Mark Earnest, MD, PhD; Tess Jones, PhD; Sarah Shannon, RN, PhD and Karen Mcdonough, MD. 

Air Pollution Study Goes Mobile

An unusual collaboration between atmospheric scientists at Rice University and the University of Houston and Rice sociologists will study how and where air quality in Houston affects the health of citizens.

The researchers led by Rob Griffin, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice, will spend two years roaming the streets in a mobile laboratory to gather data on particulate matter (PM), described as aerosol pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers (millionths of a meter) in diameter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particles smaller than 10 micrometers can find their way deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream, where they can affect the heart.

Rice sociologists Rachel Kimbro and Justin Denney will match the engineers’ findings to hundreds of thousands of health records of Houstonians collected over the past decade by biomedical informatics specialists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics.

Upcoming Events

Save the Date

2013 State Healthcare
IT Connect Summit

Tuesday, May 21 - Wednesday, May 22
In Partnership with NASCIO
Four Seasons Baltimore, MD
Event information

SCT HIMSS Speaker: Michael Kovner

Friday, May 24, 11 am - 12:30 pm
The ABC's of Meaningful Use 2
MD Anderson Cancer Center Ambulatory Clinic Building
Event information

Media Lab
Open House

Thursday, May 30, 9 am - 4:30 pm
Learn what the SBMI media lab has to offer
UCT 865

Important Dates

May 17                     Second installment payment due
May 17                     Tuition & fee payment due to avoid late fee - 12 wk. & first 6 wk. sessions
May 18                     Assessment of late tuition payment fee - 12 wk. & first 6 wk. sessions
May 20-23                Late registration (fee assessed) - 12 wk. & first 6 wk. sessions
May 20-23                Class add/drop for registered students - 12 wk. & first 6 wk. sessions
May 20                     Summer classes begin – 12 wk. & first 6 wk. sessions
May 23                     Application for summer graduation - submit to Registrar's Office
May 27                     Memorial Day holiday - university closed
June 5                      Tuition & fee payment should be made to the Bursar's Office
June 10 - July 1        Registration for the second 6 wk. session
June 24                    Second installment payment due
June 28                    Last day of class for the first six week session

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