ITdotHealth: Welcome



Dr. Alexa McCray, Co-Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Biomedical Informatics and of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, orients ITdotHealth participants to their surroundings.

So this is Massachusetts, as you can see, you came into Boston. You came into the greater Boston area, so you drove out or you took a cab or you took the T, if you’re with it. And then, you came to the Longwood Medical Area, and that’s where we are.

And you can see that some of the affiliated institutions are listed here. You can see the Beth Israel, Dana Farber, Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, but, in fact, we are a rather complex organization. There are 18 of us, 17 affiliated hospitals and institutions that comprise Harvard Medical School, and this is the environment in which we work and the environment in which you find yourselves.

And this is very specifically where you are, and since you all made it, you saw the building, and you walked in probably the front door. So welcome.

Zak Kohane and I were recruited several years ago now. We started in the fall of 2005, I guess it’s been four years now, and we were recruited to envision a new library to create a Harvard Medical School-wide center for biomedical informatics. And as we were discussing this before we even became directors, we said well, we want to be able to integrate those two activities, and this is what we’ve done.

So you can see, we have the traditional library. We’ve got books. We’ve got things falling off shelves, so we have lots of books in the library. We have periodicals and so on. We have a magnificent stairway. Functionally, of course, not very good from a functional point of view but it’s beautiful as a beautiful entrance when you walk in.

And what we then did was we created a center for biomedical informatics so that it would actually have a place here. And so we took the fourth floor of this library and we converted it into the Center for Biomedical Informatics. And again, it’s Harvard Medical School-wide, but we have a core of folks who work here.

And my last slide just gives you an indication of the kind work that we do that is relevant, integrating both the library and the informatics activities that we have. So we’re heavily involved in collaborative technology. For those of you who know, we are a center for clinical and translational science, and the Harvard Catalyst is the instantiation of that. We have a very nice website you can take a look at; it involves collaboration not just among our 18 institutions, but even more broadly in the Boston area, and, in many cases, nationally.

I’m particularly, myself, passionate about unlocking the biomedical literature, so we have activities and open access, open source activities, and so on. We do quite a lot of work in mining the bibliome trying to understand the relationship between what’s published in the literature, trying to discover, make new discoveries through the literature and other very large databases, genomic databases, and so on.

We’re involved in disease-based investigations. We’re a part of an autism consortium and many other activities in that regard. We have a biomedical informatics training grant, that I’m the PI of, and that involves 24 fellows, both pre- and post-doc, in the broader Harvard and BU and Tufts informatics arena. We also do quite a lot of bioinformatics education.

We hired and recruited David Osterbur, who is our senior librarian, who has a Ph.D. in genetics but is also a librarian. So the idea is we’re trying to bring all of these activities together.

We have a first class history of medicine division, I think rivaled only by the National Library of Medicine’s history of medicine division, and there’s some rivalry, in fact, between the two institutions. That’s a picture of Phineas Gage. We have his skull out here if you have a chance to look at some of the artifacts in the Warren Museum. He had a rod that went right through his head and he survived. So there’s a very nice story there.

And then, again, library as place, that is to say we want to be able to bring people to this institution, fly them into Boston, have them find their way outside of Boston, end up here, in this institution, and have wonderful discussions and collaborations. So I’d like to welcome you, and I think you’re going to have a great day and a half. So thanks very much.