Dr. Joel Saltz to Head New Biomedical Informatics Department

Joel saltz

Dr. Joel Saltz

Joel Saltz, MD, PhD, will join Stony Brook University as the inaugural Cherith Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics. In addition, he will hold joint appointments in the Departments of Pathology and Computer Sciences, and serve as Vice President for Informatics of Stony Brook Medicine, as well as Associate Director for Informatics of the Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Dr. Saltz received his bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in mathematics at the University of Michigan and then entered the MD/PhD program at Duke University, with his PhD studies performed in the Department of Computer Sciences. He began his academic career in computer science at Yale, the Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering at NASA Langley and the University of Maryland College Park.

Dr. Saltz then performed a residency in clinical pathology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and became professor with a dual appointment at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, serving in the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology.

In 2001, Dr. Saltz became Professor and Founding Chair of the new Department of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. At Ohio State, he also served as Associate Vice President for Health Sciences for Informatics and played important leadership roles in the Cancer Center, Heart Institute and Department of Pathology. In 2008, Dr. Saltz moved to Emory University to become Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Professor in the School of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and the School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.

During his career, Dr. Saltz’s research has focused on developing techniques and tools to enable deep integrative and coordinated translational research involving multiple “omics” and clinical information within pathology, imaging and cancer medicine. Specifically, he has worked to apply novel informatics methods and tools to support quantitative analysis, annotation and clinical correlation with pathological imaging.

In the realm of clinical research, Dr. Saltz has developed methods and tools to generate actionable clinical phenotypes from information obtained from clinical systems, particularly from patient co-morbidities and socio-economic factors. An immediate benefit from such an analysis is to leverage clinical information systems in predictive models that determine the origins of readmissions and other healthcare quality-related outcomes, driving better medical decisions.

In the very basic science side of his career, Dr. Saltz has a 25-year history of research in developing middleware, optimization methods and algorithms that target high-end and data-intensive scientific computing applications. He has made significant contributions in the areas of compilers, runtime systems, data-intensive computing and tools to support highly efficient execution of scientific applications on high-performance computing systems, large-scale data systems and in Grid environments.

Dr. Saltz leads or is currently an investigator on eight different federally funded research grants, including heading the Biomedical Informatics section of the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and the Emory Center for AIDS Research, is principal investigator of an R01 entitled “Informatics for Integrative Brain Tumor Whole Slide Analysis” and a co-investigator on an NCI grant entitled “High Throughput Protein-Protein Interaction Interrogation in Cancer,” among many others. During his career, Dr. Saltz has participated in approximately 70 grants and contracts, of which he has served as principal investigator on roughly half. As a result of this support, during his career he has contributed to more than 400 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and presentations.

In the realm of education, Dr. Saltz has been a driving force in the creation of many graduate programs. He leads the Biomedical Informatics PhD Track in Emory’s Computer Science and Informatics Program, runs “Clinical and Translational Informatics Rounds,” which includes monthly lectures and discussions in the area of clinical and translational informatics, and has helped launch Biomedical Informatics-specific master’s and doctoral programs, in addition to a myriad of other department-specific courses on informatics.

Dr. Saltz has mentored nearly 20 PhD students and 30 post-doctoral fellows in biomedical informatics, computer sciences and pathology. He has delivered more than 100 lectures nationally and internationally on the evaluation of large data sets, high performance computing and translation research informatics. And Dr. Saltz continues to practice medicine, evaluating pathological specimens, particularly in those from patients with brain and spinal tumors.

What Is Biomedical Informatics?
Many in the basic life sciences are familiar with the term “bioinformatics,” the use of computational methods to extract meaning from large data sets. Many in the clinical world of hospitals and physician practices are familiar with the term “clinical informatics,” using electronic health records to be certain that patients are receiving the best possible, evidence-based preventive and responsive medical care. The term “biomedical informatics” includes both of these disciplines and approaches, and more. Using many of the same approaches required to made sense out of, for example, the complete normal and malignant genomic sequences of 50 patients with leukemia, biomedical informatics is beginning to decipher the origins of disease, and their responses to treatment, by mining the information available in patient medical histories, physical examinations, clinical laboratory testing, CT, PET and MRI scans, and pathological samples. Based on this level of complexity, members of the Department of Biomedical Informatics will come from the disciplines of computer sciences, applied mathematics, pharmacology, and the medical and nursing disciplines.

Dr. Saltz will serve as Founding Chair of the new Stony Brook University Department of Biomedical Informatics. Like the Departments of Biochemistry, Neurobiology, and Biomedical Engineering, Biomedical Informatics at Stony Brook will include faculty members in both the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS).

Advances in technology and in computational science are making it possible to obtain and synthesize information needed to obtain a deep understanding of the mechanism underlying health and disease. Emerging methods will make it possible to optimize healthcare through data analytics to improve patient outcomes and experience by delivering effective, individually tailored healthcare in a highly efficient manner. The Stony Brook Biomedical Informatics program will develop world-class research programs to make pivotal contributions to integrative biomedical research, translate insights from integrative research to targeted patient therapy and develop data analytic methods to optimize healthcare.

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