PSB 2018 Workshop: Diversity and Disparity in Biomedical Informatics

Philip R. O. Payne, PhD1, William M. Southerland, PhD2, S. Joshua Swamidass, MD, PhD1, Laura Wiley, PhD3, ClarLynda Williams-DeVane, PhD4

1Washington University in St. Louis, Institute for Informatics
2Howard University, College of Medicine
3University of Colorado, Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine
4North Carolina Central University, Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute

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With the growing importance of Precision Medicine, it has become imperative that all segments of society are fully engaged and represented in biomedical informatics. We face a two-fold challenge: improving the diversity in the biomedical informatics workforce and improving the diversity in study cohorts.

Reduced diversity in patient cohorts leads to disparities in contributions from diverse groups which results in experimental results that are not fully reflective of demographics. A diverse informatics workforce is an essential component to achieving diversity in patient cohorts. The under-representation of specific groups in both the biomedical informatics workforce as well as in patient cohorts contributes to an ongoing disparity; these groups are not equitably benefiting from advances in informatics research. 

This workshop will cover:

  1. Methodological approaches to the collection and analysis of data sets that can enable the study of minority health and health disparities.
  2. Assessments of informatics workforce diversity and discussions of approaches to its resolution.
  3. The importance of diversity in the Precision Medicine Initiative “All of Us” challenge.

Workshop Rationale:

The Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing (PSB) 2018 is an international, multidisciplinary conference for the presentation and discussion of current research in the theory and application of computational methods in problems of biological significance. PSB 2018 brings together top researchers from around the world to exchange research results and address open issues in all aspects of computational biology. The PSB has been designed to be responsive to the need for critical mass in sub-disciplines within Biocomputing and provides an early forum for serious examination of emerging methods and approaches in this rapidly changing field. As a result, PSB 2018 provides an ideal venue for the vibrant exchange of ideas and insights around issues related to diversity and disparity in the biomedical informatics workforce as well as patient cohort data.

Call for Abstracts

Workshop Organizers:

Philip R.O. Payne, PhD. is the Robert J. Terry professor and founding Director of the Institute for Informatics (I2) at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also serves as a Professor of Medicine and Computer Science. Previously, Dr. Payne was Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University. Dr. Payne’s research primarily focuses on the use of knowledge-based methods for in silico hypothesis discovery. He received his Ph.D. with distinction in Biomedical Informatics from Columbia University, where his research focused on the use of knowledge engineering and human-computer interaction design principles to improve the efficiency of multi-site clinical and translational research programs. Dr. Payne was a co-organizer of the “Discovery of Molecularly Targeted Therapies” session for PSB 2016 and “Open Data for Discovery Science” workshop at PSB 2017.

William Southerland, PhD, is a Professor of Biochemistry in the Howard University College of Medicine. He is also the Director of the Howard University Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CCBB) and the Principal Investigator of the Howard University Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program. Additionally, he is co-Director of the Biomedical Informatics component of the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (GHUCCTS). His research interests include investigating the rules of molecular recognition and interactions using molecular dynamics simulation to correlate conformational changes with time-dependent changes in atom-atom contacts between interacting species and with any associated changes in time-dependent interaction energies. This approach is used to study interaction mechanisms of small molecules with both proteins and DNA and has important implications for design of therapeutic agents. Also of interest is the utilization of molecular dynamics and time-dependent interaction energy calculations to decode the nucleotide sequence dependency on ligand recognition by DNA. His interests also include obesity-related SNP analysis in diverse populations and the development of tools for mining of EHR data.

Joshua Swamidass, MD PhD. is an assistant professor at Washington University in Saint Louis, where he studies drug metabolism and idiosyncratic drug reactions. He also worked with the AAAS as a science advisor to the Science for Seminaries Program and with BioLogos as a speaker. These two efforts worked to dialogue and engage religious communities that have historically opposed specific advances in our understanding of biology.

Laura Wiley, PhD. is an assistant professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. Her work focuses on harnessing the power of electronic medical records for precision medicine. From phenomics to pharmacogenomics her lab seeks to improve patient care by using and applying data big and small alike. She is also passionate about health policy and its role in enabling and encouraging innovation for patients and healthcare. She is also the chair of the AMIA working group steering committee.

ClarLynda Williams-DeVane, PhD. is an assistant professor at North Carolina Central University. She is also the director of the Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Computational Chemistry Core (BGCCC) and leader of the Integrative Data Science Approaches to Health Disparities research team, where she leads the development of integrative methods and approaches in the secondary analysis of disparate complex disease data. She teaches interdisciplinary Biostatistics and Bioinformatics courses from the undergraduate to doctoral level. Dr. Williams-DeVane is currently focused on the disparities of maternal mediated childhood obesity (MMCO), childhood asthma, preterm birth, and breast cancer.