24 November 2009

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Bayesian Biosurveillance

The ISDS has received the following job opening to pass along to our membership. Contact information for the position is listed at the bottom of the entry.

The Cooper Laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship involving research on Bayesian modeling and inference for disease outbreak detection and characterization. The position is available starting December 1, 2009. The project is advancing the state-of-the-art in research at the intersection of computer science, epidemiology, Bayesian methods, and graphical models. It is an integral part of DBMI's new CDC Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics, which is being led by the RODS Laboratory.

The project specifically involves developing, implementing, and evaluating new Bayesian computational methods for detecting outbreaks of disease as soon as possible from healthcare data, such as emergency department records. It has access to large sets of data that are relevant to disease outbreak detection and characterization. The project team includes public health officials, who are responsible for detecting disease outbreaks in the population, and a key goal of the project is to provide them with state-of-the-art Bayesian methods for detecting and characterizing outbreaks in the service of improving public health. The research project involves a tight loop between theory and practice, with the goal of advancing both.

The postdoctoral fellow will be involved in all aspects of the project, particularly in bridging between the conceptual aspects of the research (in collaboration with the project faculty) and the implementation of those concepts as computer programs (in collaboration with the project programmer). The fellow will also be centrally involved in evaluating the methods that are developed.

Candidates must have a Ph.D. in biomedical informatics, computer science, machine learning, statistics, or a related field. Candidates must also have a strong working knowledge of the Java, C++, or a related programming language. Knowledge of Bayesian statistics and Bayesian networks are desirable, but not required.

Three letters of recommendation should accompany the application or be sent independently at the same time to the contact below.

Please send a curriculum vitae and the letters of recommendation to:

Ms. Daphne Henry
e-mail (preferred): dahst44@pitt.edu
fax: (412) 802-6803
phone: (412) 648-6738

23 November 2009

Cerner and "Health Aware": November PHPC Meeting

On today's Public Health Practice Committee conference call, Cole Erdmann, Analyst with the Cerner Corporation presented on their flu pandemic tracking initiative known as “HealthAware”. Other Cerner Corporation representatives were available to respond to questions including Michelle Siefert, Solution Manager & Jason Burritt, Sr. Manager. An update on the current findings of DiSTRIBuTE and the latest news on the upcoming ISDS conference was also discussed.

Slides from Cole Erdmann's presentation are now available on the ISDS wiki.

The next meeting of the PHPC will take place on Thursday, December 3rd at the 8th Annual ISDS Conference in Miami, FL. The meeting will be held from 6:15 to 7:00 pm in the Castillian Room at the Miami Beach Resort & Spa.

06 November 2009

ISDS Members and Distribute Participants Win 2009 Davies Awards

The ISDS is pleased to announce that one of its Board Directors, Julia Gunn, along with her team at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), recently received the 2009 Davies Public Health Award of Excellence for their work with syndromic surveillance. As one of its original participants, the Boston Syndromic Surveillance System (B-SYNSS) has made significant contributions to the ISDS Distribute collaborative.

The BPHC Infectious Disease Bureau was one of two institutions to win this award, along with active ISDS member Art Davidson for the Denver Public Health Information Service (DPH-IS). Both Julia and Art made presentations at a breakfast on September 2nd, 2009 as a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ PHIN Conference in Atlanta. The Davies Award, managed by HIMSS, is meant to “[Recognize] public health achievement through health information management, specifically electronic health records(1).”

In a recent phone interview with Julia Gunn, she explained that the BPHC decided to apply for the award because syndromic surveillance has really changed how they look at information. For example, having a syndromic surveillance system enabled them to participate in Distribute and to compare data with other participating health departments. Comparing data between jurisdictions allows Distribute participants to see differences across regions and urban areas (rather than simply state to state), revealing new patterns in disease spread.

Not only did their use of syndromic surveillance allow the BPHC to see new patterns in disease spread, but it also increased situational awareness, especially with Boston’s H1N1 outbreak this past spring. With more information available on influenza-like illness (ILI), the BPHC could adjust both practice and response as necessary. Changes in practice, in turn, led to the continued evaluation and modification of their syndromic surveillance system. Over time, the BPHC has been able to tweak its system’s definitions for ILI based on population-specific descriptions, further improving disease monitoring.

When asked what part of the Distribute Project has been most valuable to her team, Gunn responded that it has been the active community of practice. When working with a moving target such as an epidemic, having more details readily available better equips a health department to respond appropriately. Having access to a support system where ideas and strategies can be shared--especially between similar jurisdictions--has been beneficial. It was particularly valuable for Boston to be able to compare data with New York City this past spring, whose outbreak of H1N1 was slightly ahead of Boston’s. Due to similarities that the two cities share, such as weather patterns and school systems, it was helpful to trade insight and experience between the respective health departments.

The ISDS would like to congratulate Julia and the BPHC for their receipt of the Davies Award, and for contributing to the awareness and improvement of syndromic surveillance.

1. HIMSS News: Two Organizations Honored with 2009 Davies Public Health Award of Excellence

Additional Information:
BPHC Press Release