Smith to direct biomedical informatics initiatives

(COLLEGE STATION, Texas) — The leap in available biological information over the past decade has created new, exciting ways to better understand human disease and develop effective treatments, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) is poised to be at the forefront of these opportunities.

Head shot of Dr. Jack Smith

Dr. Jack Smith

Jack Smith, M.D., Ph.D., has been recruited as a professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis in the TAMHSC-College of Medicine, with a joint appointment in the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management. He is spearheading efforts to establish collaborative research and product development efforts into biomedical informatics, an interdisciplinary field applying computer technology to manage biological information.

“In the physician’s office or the hospital environment, biomedical informaticians are involved in helping think through the flow of data, information and knowledge that comes in as patients are treated,” Dr. Smith said. “Managing and utilizing that data better can help improve not only clinical care for individual patients, but also in terms of looking at the clinical care that many different patients with the same condition are getting and using that information to improve the overall system of care.”

Prior to TAMHSC, Dr. Smith served as dean at the School of Biomedical Informatics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, as well as tenured professor. A board certified clinical pathologist, he received his Ph.D. in Computer Science in artificial intelligence at The Ohio State University, where he also was employed.

Dr. Smith was the first Deputy Director of Medical Informatics and Healthcare Systems at NASA Johnson Space Center. He is a Fellow of the College of Medical Informatics and recipient of a Career Development Award from the National Library of Medicine. His previous research is in the application of models of problem solving, automated reasoning and cognitive science to the understanding of human-computer interaction in health care and biomedicine. He has used these approaches to develop a number of applications in decision-support and intelligent tutoring in a variety of domains.

At TAMHSC, Dr. Smith’s efforts will encompass data mining for research, as well as related computer programming and information design. These initiatives will facilitate technology transfer and product/process development in conjunction with the TAMHSC’s Clinical Science & Translational Research Program and with One Health, a large-scale, integrated program in the Brazos Valley dedicated to collaboration and research in health care for humans, animals and the environment.

“Texas A&M is unique in having the strengths of veterinary medicine, AgriLife and public health, as well as medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and allied health, all in one major university system,” Dr. Smith said. “I think there is a lot of opportunity to broaden the way we do translational research beyond the traditional way of moving from models of disease and health based on simple laboratory systems. There are different paths that can be taken, and with the integration of information at the data, information and knowledge level, a lot more discovery can be made a lot faster. The data tells you what hypotheses might be worth pursuing, and you can use these databases to generate those ideas, then pursue them in a more hypothesis-driven way.”

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