Seeking the future leaders of healthcare: Dr. Jennie Lou

Few areas of healthcare IT possess the imagination and vitality of its academic community. Since we believe that many times the activities and ideas on campus rarely are considered in the field, we decided to reach out to Dr Jennie Lou, Program Director of Biomedical Informatics at Nova Southeastern University to learn more about her program as well as her thoughts on how the future leaders of healthcare informatics ought to be taught. 

(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)

Free: Please tell us about your background and how you became an instructor.

Jennie Lou, M.D., M.S., Program Director, Biomedical Informatics, Nova Southeastern

Jennie Lou, M.D., M.S., Program Director, Biomedical Informatics, Nova Southeastern

Lou: I am a physician by training, a neurologist, but I am also a certified epidemiologist. As an instructor, I got into public health informatics first. Then I became more and more interested in biomedical informatics in general. In 2005, I started to establish this biomedical informatics program here at Nova Southeastern. I serve as its Department Chair today.

Free: What was the process behind building the biomedical informatics program at Nova Southeastern?

Lou: I want to thank our dean for his vision because back then not too many medical schools were actually thinking about getting a biomedical informatics program. Even to this day, it was still the first, and only, one biomedical informatics program in osteopathic medical school around the country.

We actually were in collaboration with Veterans Affairs (VA) in Palm Beach. We were collaborating with them to train their leaders in health informatics back then. That was the original rational and need for the program.

Free: What were some of the first tasks you faced when working with the VA during the early days of your program?

Lou: The Veteran’s Administration was one of the pioneers in the country to use electronic health medical records (EHRs) as you know. They found they were challenged by many obstacles. They found they didn’t have enough physician champions. Their physicians and other healthcare users were not up to speed when it comes to technology so they wanted us to help to train their staff. Our program was originally designed to meet that goal.

It turns out that biomedical health informatics is not just for physicians. It is for everybody. That was a surprise.

Free: How would you describe the make-up of the students in your program today?

Lou: About one third of our students are from healthcare field. We have physicians, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, OT [occupational therapists], PT [physical therapists], and social work, nutrition. You name it. We have it.

Another third of our student population is from the computer science background. These are people who have 20-25 years in computer engineering, but they want to transition to biomedical informatics. They come to our program to make that transition.

The final third of our students come from everywhere else. They come from business, education, biology, history, religion and professionals with MBA’s come to our program.

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