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About the School

of Biomedical Informatics


About UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics

The School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI) is one of the six schools of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), which is a component of the 14 institutions of The University of Texas System.

SBMI is the only academic biomedical informatics program in Texas, the only free-standing school among 70 related programs in the nation, and one of the largest programs of its kind in the world.

Vision

The UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics is Transforming Data to Power Human HealthTM.

Mission

The mission of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics is to collect, process, and convert data—ranging from molecules to populations—into actionable information, knowledge, and intelligence; to educate current and future leaders, innovators, and problem solvers across Texas, the nation, and the world; to disrupt, transform, and innovate to elicit biomedical discoveries, improve healthcare delivery, and aid in disease prevention by conducting outstanding basic and applied research and developing impactful information technology products and solutions.

What is Biomedical Informatics?

Biomedical Informatics studies the acquisition, storage, communication, processing, integration, analysis, mining, retrieval, interpretation, and presentation of data and determines how to transform data (meaningless symbols) to information (interpreted data), to knowledge (validated information), and to intelligence (actionable knowledge), with the aim of solving problems in disease prevention, healthcare delivery, and biomedical discovery.

Biomedical informatics covers the entire spectrum of biological scales—from small molecules, genes, proteins, and cells, to tissues and organs, to individuals and populations. Biomedical informatics is a highly interdisciplinary field focused on collaborations with partners in clinical practice (e.g., medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, population health, etc.); the biomedical sciences; public and community health; computer science and engineering; mathematics and biostatistics; cognitive science; the social and behavioral sciences; healthcare management; and health IT policy and law. Data Science for medicine and healthcare is a subfield of Biomedical Informatics; it focuses on all aspects of data for disease prevention, healthcare delivery, and biomedical discovery. A subfield of Data Science, Medical Artificial Intelligence (AI) focuses on machine learning, pattern recognition, computational phenotyping, and predictive modeling.

Figure depicting the relationship between biomedical informatics, health data science, and medical AI
Figure depicting the relationship between biomedical informatics, health data science, and medical AI, with a view to the scope of related processes, entities, functions, and domains.

Academic Programs

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Informatics (PhD)
    • Focuses on research and requires a dissertation; for students interested in academia, R&D in industry, and other advanced careers
  • Doctorate in Health Informatics (DHI)
    • Focuses on application and requires a translational practice project in a healthcare organization; for executive-level professionals who want to achieve real-world impact
  • Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics
    • Research Track: Requires a capstone project or a state-of-the-science paper
    • Applied Track: Requires a capstone project that focuses on a real-world problem
  • Certificate Programs
    • Foci include: Clinical Informatics, Data Science, Public Health Informatics, Human Factors Engineering, and Bioinformatics; credits earned can be applied to continue within the MS or doctoral degree programs
  • Dual Degree Programs
    • MD/MS (UTH McGovern, UT RGV)
    • MD/PhD (pending)
    • PhD/MPH
    • MS/MPH
  • Baccalaureate Accelerated Programs (4 + 1): TAMIU; UTRGV

Education, Research, and Application Areas

  • Data Science and Artificial Intelligence
    • Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Data Integration and Harmonization, Data Mining and Analytics, Computational Phenotyping, Predictive Modeling, Ontology, Data Security and Cryptology, and Biostatistics
  • Clinical and Health Informatics
    • Clinical Decision Support, EHR Usability and Workflow, Human Factors Engineering, Visualization, Population and Public Health, Patient Safety, Telemedicine, Social Media, Mobile and Connected Health, and Health Service Research
  • Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine
    • Precision Health, Genomic Medicine, Pharmacogenetics, Functional Genomics, NGS Data Analysis (WGS, WES, microRNA, ChIP-sequencing, single cell RNA-sequencing, and methylation), Microarray Data Analysis, Imaging, Biological Pathways, Smart Clinical Trials, and Multimodality Modeling

Students

As of 2019, approximately 350 SBMI students are working toward a formal degree or certificate; 54% are female and 46% are male; and the average age is 30.5 years old. 28.5% of students are from a healthcare background (7% MD, 7.4% nursing, 4.4% public health, and 9.7% other clinical); 27.1% are from a computer science or engineering background; 19.4% are from biology/chemistry/premed; 10.2% are from management or business administration; 5.4% are from the social sciences; and 9.4% are from other backgrounds. 80% of MS program enrollees are part-time students who have full- or part-time jobs; 96% of our certificate students attend classes part-time.

Careers

Many master's degree alumni work in hospitals that have implemented electronic health record systems (EHRs). They analyze the EHR needs of their hospitals and train workers to use those systems. Recent master’s graduates from the data science track work in industry in the areas of advanced analytics, data science, machine learning, and AI. After completing their degrees, more than half of doctoral students become faculty members who conduct research, as well as teach.

Additional Common Jobs

  • Systems Analysts
  • Informatics Support Analysts
  • Informatics Project Managers
  • EHR Trainers and Implementers
  • Data Scientists and Machine Learning Specialists
  • Clinical Natural Language Processing (NLP) Specialists
  • Health IT Consultants
  • Public Health Information Officers
  • Developers and Programmers
  • Database and Data Warehouse Managers
  • Chief Medical Information Officers
  • Chief Nursing Information Officers
  • Chief Data Scientists
  • Chief Technology Officers
  • Start-up Company Executives

Also see Informatics Career Outcome Numbers and the Careers in Biomedical Informatics video.

Accreditation

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificate, baccalaureate, masters, doctorate and special professional degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500, for questions about the accreditation of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics, Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Initial accreditation was granted on April 12, 2019, under the 2010 Health Informatics Standards for the Master’s Degree. For more information on CAHIIM, please go to: https://www.cahiim.org/accreditation/health-informatics/accreditation-standards.

Historical Milestones

1997: Led by founding dean, Doris L. Ross, PhD, The University of Texas School of Allied Health Sciences at Houston was reorganized to focus on health informatics
1999: The first MS program of The University of Texas School of Allied Health Sciences was approved by UT System and accredited through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
2000: The first cohort of MS program students graduated
2000: The first PhD program of The University of Texas School of Allied Health Sciences was approved by UT System and accredited through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
2001: The University of Texas School of Allied Health was renamed The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences (SHIS); it was the first school in the nation to offer graduate degrees in health informatics
2005: Jack Smith, MD, PhD, was named dean of SHIS
2010: The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences was renamed The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI)
2013: Jiajie Zhang, PhD, was named dean of SBMI
2019: The first cohort of students was enrolled in the DHI program, which is the first advanced practice degree in health informatics offered in the U.S.