SBMI Alumni Association Steering Committee

Muhammad Walji – SBMI Ph.D. (2006), M.S. (2002)

Associate Dean for Technology Services & Informatics, Associate Professor at UTHealth SOD
Location: Houston
SBMIAA President

Adol Esquival – MD, SBMI Ph.D. (2008), M.S. (2005)

Assistant Vice President for Performance Measurement Systems and Comparative Effectiveness Research at CHI St. Luke's Health
Location: Houston
SBMIAA President-elect and Chair of Distinguished Alumni Sub-committee

Chance Coble – SBMI M.S. (2006)

Principal at Blacklight Solutions
Location: Austin
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Sarah Edmonson – SBMI M.S. (2005)

Clinical Informatics Lead at St. Luke's Hospital
Location: Houston
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Jose Florez Arango – M.D., SBMI Ph.D. (2009)

Auxiliary Professor at Department of Medical Education at Universidad de Antioquia SOM 
Location: Colombia
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Constance Johnston – SBMI Ph.D. (2003), M.S. (2001)

Associate Professor at Duke SON
Location: Durham, NC
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Mehdi Rais – SBMI M.S. (2012), Certificate (2012)

Clinical Informaticist at Memorial Hermann
Location: Houston
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Ryan Kumar Ray – SBMI M.S. and SPH M.P.H. (2014)

Health Plan Implementation Manager at HealthHelp
Location: Houston
SBMIAA Steering Committee Member

Adriana Stanley – SBMI M.S. (2015)

SBMI PhD student
Location: Houston
Ex-Officio SGO President


What did you do prior to attending (what is now known as) SBMI?

Ryan Kumar Ray: Prior to joining SBMI, I was a healthcare business analyst for Medsynergies, a company that provided revenue cycle management, business processes analysis and software integration solutions to healthcare organizations. In my role, I did reporting based on company KPIs to evaluate physician productivity, clinical and financial operations.

Chance Coble: I was a software engineer, primarily working on projects in financial services and payment processing. 

Adriana Stanley: Prior to attending SBMI, I was working at HP Enterprise services in Dallas in a computer networking graduate development program.

Jose Fernando Florez Arango: I was an ER doctor in Colombia.

Constance Johnson: Prior to attending SBMI, I worked in a variety of positions. These included Staff Nurse, Nurse Administrator, Clinical Manager, Research Associate, Departmental Manager, Computer Programmer/Database Developer, Senior Research Nurse, and Project Manager.  I worked at California Pacific Medical Center, Tokos Medical Corporation- both of San Francisco, CA and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Adol Esquivel: I went to medical school. I also did computer sciences (prior to med school) and I was always trying to automate my professor’s offices (they loved it) and always trying to introduce technology to the clinics.

Muhammad Walji: Before SBMI I was a student at University of Texas at Dallas earning a degree in Biology. I was also working for a small business that developed and marketed software to independent pharmacies.

Mehdi Rais: I was a medical graduate from overseas who was lucky enough to have worked with a wide variety of clinical care systems. I had been involved with some of the most sophisticated health delivery systems and watched patients and providers suffer from a lack of poor system design in those institutions. Additionally, I had the fortune to work with the International Organization for Migration and witness some of the smallest, most remote clinics deliver the promises of healthcare to so many underserved and indigenous populations because of intentional design and well-thought-out work flows. All of these experiences inspired me to learn more about how well-thought-out design and technologies could help bridge the gap in making the provider and patient experience a better one.

Sarah Edmonson: I was a practicing Family Physician on Faculty with Baylor's Family and Community Medicine Department.

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What drew you to health informatics?  How did you initially get into the field?

Chance Coble: The chance to do some really meaningful work.  I still see that opportunity, and think that advancing information solutions remains one of the most compelling strategies for improving healthcare.

Adriana Stanley: I was drawn to health informatics because I was a biology major working in the computer side of a corporation and there wasn’t much crossover with my academic training and my everyday work. I sought out a place where I would fit better my career goals and my need to do something that helped people and found SBMI.

Jose Fernando Florez Arango: I started to work on health informatics during medical school but there was no options in Colombia. I started working on information retrieval at Medical Library of Universida de Antioquia.

Constance Johnson: In 1985, due to my background in preterm birth prevention, I began working for a company called Tokos Medical Corporation, a telehealth company with nursing services that provided home uterine activity monitoring for women who were at high risk for preterm labor and delivery.  We monitored women through analog data for premature uterine contractions.  In 1988, the company switched from a paper format to review uterine contraction data to a digital format, thus began my interest in usability engineering.  The presentation of these data was problematic in terms of the visualization of these data and error prevention. After this position in 1990, I became a computer programmer and database developer for a 3300 delivery per year Level 3 Obstetric and Neonatal Center in a large metropolitan medical center (San Francisco). We developed a taxonomy for this system, which produced a variety of medical and financial outputs. This database is currently approved for use by JCAHO. It was an early version of an electronic medical record.  After this, I was a Project Manager directing the development of database tools and methods for the collection and analysis of pedigree data for a Human Cancer Genetics Program.  All of these positions plus others prompted my interest in obtaining a graduate degree in health informatics.  It seemed like a good fit with my background and the direction I wished to take in my career.

Adol Esquivel: The notion that I could combine my love for technology with my passion in medicine is what first attracted me to informatics. Discovering later the more formal principles and theories of informatics is what really got me interested and made me think I could actually “treat” and “help” more people by doing informatics than I would ever be able to treat/help by practicing as a physician. My hospital in Mexico (where I trained) was very forward thinking at that time and gave me a lot of support by sending me to my first AMIA meeting in Washington where I got to meet the group from the NLM who invited me to apply for one of their summer programs. I ended up attending and doing some work with digital X-rays and developing algorithms to aid screening. That was my first formal experience with informatics. It was there that I learned about the UT program and the rest is history.

Muhammad Walji: My work while doing my undergraduate degree led me into the field. We were developing a software system that helped independent pharmacies and their patients identify drug interactions with vitamins and herbs. The system would run on a kiosk in a pharmacy. As it was a small business I got involved in all aspects including gathering scientific evidence, liaising with developers, and selling and supporting the product. I thought I needed some formal training and found the School of Health Information Sciences, now SBMI, and moved to Houston.

Mehdi Rais: My story is a simple one.  I started from the bottom and worked my way up.  The Texas eHealth Alliance had an internship for participants interested in a career in Health IT.  I signed up and was appointed as an intern to the West Texas Regional Extension Center in Lubbock, TX.  Reluctantly, I left for this remote bastion in West Texas, but to my amazement I had discovered that the same rural, resource-deprived providers I worked with overseas, could be found in rural West Texas. They were eager to improve their reach to patients across their region through the effective use of Electronic Health Records (EHR), and supporting technologies.  With ARRA legislation passed and 18 billion dollars available for providers to adopt, implement and Meaningful Use and EHR, the opportunity to contribute and learn as an intern was palpable. During my time as an intern and later as the Director of Clinical Informatics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I was exposed to three hundred EHR implementations across west Texas in both the tiniest clinics in the panhandle to the largest health systems in this massive geographic area. Through it all, I learned some valuable lessons that have stuck with me throughout my career in Health Informatics.

Sarah Edmonson: I became interested in health informatics when my clinic began the process to implement electronic medical records.

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How has the field changed since you graduated?

Chance Coble: When I started the program, we were at the end of traditional thinking in information processing.  In the time since, multicore processors became standard, cloud infrastructure became a cheap way to try new ideas out on highly scalable computing resources and the landscape of data processing and analysis has shifted to a scale we couldn't have dreamed of at that time, even with open source tools.  Healthcare now struggles with integrating these advances into its complex domain, and that creates a lot of exciting opportunities for people with creative ideas.

Adriana Stanley: Graduated in May with master’s and started Ph.D. in June J

Jose Fernando Florez Arango: Now we have mHealth and are talking about web 3.0.

Constance Johnson: The field has gone through significant transformations.  When I graduated there was not widespread adoption of the electronic health record and most organizations were still using pen and paper.  Usability was a new concept in the area of health informatics and was not widely accepted as a problem.    Mobile phones were not smartphones and we certainly did not even know the concept of mHealth.  Big data was only a concept and not a reality and we certainly did not have the computing power that we have – even on our mobile devices.  People did not carry around their computers like paper notebooks and wifi was not freely available everywhere.  And I am only hitting the tip of the iceberg here.

Adol Esquivel: I often tell my wife that all the stars aligned the year I graduated. I graduated from the program in 2008, the year President Obama signed into law the healthcare reform and with it the HITECH act! In the past five to six years the field of health informatics has exploded and one could say become mainstream! Being a recent graduate of the program at that time meant a lot of doors and opportunities suddenly opened. The notion of informatics, the application of its principles and the importance of it has become common knowledge in the industry. I think that is the biggest change I’ve seen.

Muhammad Walji: Surprisingly, not much has changed in terms of the core ideas. However, there has been lots more recognition about the importance of informatics in healthcare and funding for the field has dramatically increased.

Mehdi Rais: Since my graduation in 2012, we have seen wide-spread adoption of electronic health records and an improved understanding of electronic information and the opportunities/risks such information presents to providers and patients. In 2015, we are finally beginning to truly “meaningfully use” these systems to improve the delivery of care.  For all of these efforts, I think providers now more than ever, have a better understanding of the care they’re delivering and recognize the areas to improve.

Sarah Edmonson: Federal incentive programs such as Meaningful Use have added a tremendous amount of focus and consistency to the field.

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What did you do after graduating, and where are you now?

Ryan Kumar Ray: While working as a consultant within the healthcare advisory practice at Ernst & Young I completed a dual master’s program where I have earned a Master’s in Public Health and Master’s in Health Informatics with overall concentration in Global Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health and University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics.  Upon graduation, I moved to Houston to join HealthHelp, a specialty benefits management company that works with both payers and providers to make sure the patient is getting the right level of care. I work as a health plan implementation manager where my role is to interact with the various internal and external stakeholders to onboard new clients (ex. IT, clinical and operations).

Chance Coble: Immediately after graduating I took a job with an inventions company based in Washington, D.C. called Ideal Innovations.  I worked on machine vision applications in biometrics to solve identity problems and focused on field applications where those problems were causing severe problems such as Iraq.  After a few years of that I hung out my own shingle and began consulting for organizations to help them create more value with owned data sources.  Today I am the Managing Principal at Blacklight Solutions and I steer the company's vision and strategy so our team can do great things with data for the organizations we serve.

Adriana Stanley: I graduated in May with my master’s degree and started my Ph.D. degree in this summer semester so I’m learning how my research in handoff quality improvement fits into the greater field of health informatics.

Jose Fernando Florez Arango: I´m a professor and researcher at Universida de Antioquia with a lot of international contacts.

Constance Johnson: After graduation, I was an instructor in the Quantitative Science Division at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from 2003-2006. During this time, I was working on building risk models for colorectal cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.   In 2006, I began working at Duke University  as an Assistant Professor.  I am currently a tenured Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and School of Medicine at Duke University.  I am additionally the Systems Program Faculty Coordinator, where I oversee three programs in Education, Informatics and Leadership.  The aim of my program of research is to examine innovative approaches that present and communicate digital health information (i.e. human-computer interaction) to clinicians and healthcare consumers in order to promote effective decision-making and self-management in chronic disease. This program of research is a result of years of experience in disease prevention and health promotion and in health informatics. During my time at Duke, I have received funding as a PI from the NIH – National Cancer Institute, National Library of Medicine, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, AHRQ and the Renaissance Computing Institute. I have also been on numerous other grants as Co-Investigator.  I additionally teach informatics courses to masters and doctoral level students at Duke University. I am on a variety of committees both locally and nationally.

Adol Esquivel: I graduated in December of 2008. I had applied to several positions but I had no offers thus I worked out a deal with Dr. Turley to stay as his fellow for six months working to publish several papers we were writing while I continued looking for jobs! In February I applied to a position with Hardeep Singh in Baylor/VA doing research on the same topic of my dissertation (EHR Communication). It was an amazing experience for someone who had just graduated. The group I joined taught me a lot about the real world research in informatics and applications of informatics. I had the opportunity to publish several papers with Hardeep Singh and Dean Sitting. I call that my fellowship since I learned so many things. I worked two years at the center and then I was recruited by the St. Luke’s system to be the Director of their Clinical Effectiveness and Analytics group. 

Muhammad Walji: After completing the Ph.D. I joined the UTHealth School of Dentistry as an Assistant Professor. I have been here for nearly nine years.

Mehdi Rais: I served as CMIO for a Health IT consulting firm for two years that was focused on helping hospital systems implement and optimize their Electronic Health Records. Since that time, I have transitioned into my current role as a Clinical Informaticist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group here in Houston. Many of the lessons from SBMI in regards to usability, data visualization, workflow analysis, and good data management practices support my everyday work.

Sarah Edmonson: After graduating, I moved into full-time applied clinical informatics work, initially in an ambulatory environment and then in a hospital setting.  Over time, I have specialized in the capture and reporting of clinical data for reporting programs such as Meaningful Use.  I currently work with CHI St. Luke's Hospital System, in the Department of Clinical Effectiveness and Performance Measurement.

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