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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to School

So today I finished off a bunch of paperwork related to going back to school for me.  I've been accepted to the Biomedical Informatics Program at Oregon Health and Science University.  My faculty adviser will be fellow blogger Bill Hersh, known in blogging circles as the Informatics Professor.  Getting to this stage was quite a bit of work, and involved jumping a number of hoops, given than I'm a non-traditional student.  That's code for I don't have a Bachelors degree.

One of the questions I'm often asked is why I want to do this, especially given that I already teach classes at this level.  I've been a guest-lecturer to MS students in Northeastern's Informatics program and Johns Hokin's MPH degree programs, and have also participated in symposia at Harvard Medical School and at the University of Utah.  In addition, I've written the only text book on the HL7 CDA standard.

I laugh at myself a bit, and I also point at that some of the schools where I've taught won't even let me into their masters' programs. I understand why, and it's not the program or the people involved in it who are at fault. Two deans and one program chair failed where Bill (and I) succeeded.  It's the accreditation process and procedures that are put into place to ensure that we've got quality programs at those schools that don't allow for exceptions (and ensure that everyone gets their pound of flesh).

My first answer is a bit off the wall.  The reason that I want to be here is to learn what my students are learning.  That's actually a pretty good reason when you think about it.  It makes it easier to connect and to understand what they already know (or should know).  The other reason is because while I've got really detailed specialist knowledge, what I don't have is some of the breadth that others do who've been through a program like this.  In my day job, I'll learn it as I go when I realize there is a gap, but this gives me an opportunity to identify a bunch of gaps at once, and concentrate on addressing them.

I hope that in entering this process as late as I am, and as set in my ways as I am, I don't run into the potential dangers of academia.  I expect to be as cantankerous and as challenging a student as I was as an undergraduate (I didn't say I never went to college, just that I never finished).  I just hope that I don't wind up scaring my teachers away.

As I enter into this new distribution of efforts, I'll be stepping back from some other activities.  Recently new cochairs were elected for IHE Patient Care Coordination. For the first time in eight years (yes, it has been than long), I won't be co-chairing a committee in IHE. But I'll still be around and participating.  I will continue on in my role as an HL7 Board Member, and I don't rule out more advanced participation on the HL7 Board in the future.


  1. Thanks Keith, I am looking forward to your joining our program.

    It is students like yourself - challenging but fair - who make my job most enjoyable. It's no secret that many academics learn a great deal from their students. I have already learned a lot about standards from your blog, talking to you, and from your publications.

    I look forward, as you say, to filling in the rest of your informatics knowledge!


  2. Keith/Bill, Wow. Sounds like a fantastic win-win. Be sure your CDA book becomes a "must read" in the curriculum if it is not already. Bravo.

  3. Best of luck, Keith - I'm sure you'll do just fine! I was also a 'non-traditional' Masters (MMedSci) student at age 46, and it took quite a lot of hoop-jumping to get in. I ended up with a Distinction, so the faculty were pleased they took the risk with me, although I was also known as a challenging student. But isn't that what students at this level should be?

  4. Congratulations Keith. : )

    - Virginia Lorenzi