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Sunday, December 8, 2013


This morning (at 3:00am), I finished my last class in my first term as an Informatics student at OHSU.  I have mixed feelings about it, although I would have to say that mostly, I am quite happy about it.  I'll miss poking fun at Bill at getting hammered by Paul (with homework and readings), and chatting in the forums with other students.

What did I learn?  Wow.

How to be a student again, and what a difference at a personal level wanting to succeed and do well does for learning.  How technology can help or hamper your efforts, and what it means to have to think about dealing with it when you aren't in control of your location.  For example, I was greatly challenged accessing video during the day here (limited hotel bandwidth), but fortunately for me, that didn't interfere with tonight's presentation. It's one of the reasons I didn't object to the time, trying to do a virtual meeting with three or four video feeds is tough on bandwidth.  Also, being prepared with the materials on my iPad helped, and I'd like to thank Bill for getting those Zipped up to make downloading them from home easier.  But those are not the things you probably care about, so let me get to them.

Dr. Paul Gorman's class on the Practice of Medicine was an awesome experience for me in many ways.  I got to look at situations from a different perspective (which is the intent of the class).  Interestingly enough, I was in a very small group of people who didn't have a clinical background.  Most of my classmates probably felt that this material was much easier for them, given that they already had it.  It made me push all the harder to keep up.  Here's a quote from the Syllabus (I would have pointed you to it online, but they are apparently updating it).
Course Description
This course introduces the medical informatics student to the clinical practice of healthcare including
  • The underlying biology and manifestations of selected disease states;
  • The information gathering and reasoning processes used to detect, understand, and treat diseases;
  • The health professionals who provide and support care;
  • The clinical settings in which care takes place.
The objective is to enable non-clinicians to understand the context, the vocabulary, and some of
the challenges for supporting clinical work in real settings with informatics tools.
Each week we look a new case.  Over the term, what you have to do for each case builds from the previous week's material.  We also here from other clinicians, including a PA, a pharmacist, and a nurse.  Be thankful you have the web for this class, I cannot imagine any other way to access information more readily.  The OHSU Library also makes some great online resources accessible to you as a student (I might just have to become a lifelong learner for that alone).

My brain is still trying to process all I learned from that class.  When it emerges and I start to synthesize that into my work, I know I'll be looking at things just a little bit differently.  Fortunately for me, I can also remember how things were before I learned something (although it takes a mental gear shift), so I don't expect that I'll go completely "Academic" on you.

Dr. Bill Hersh's Introduction to Informatics class is required material, but I would have taken it anyway.  It's pretty much the same content he uses in the AMIA 10X10 program.  I expect he'll be updating some slides after having me in class ;-), but even so, the material is very good, and valuable even for the Venerated Ancient (see the link under Academic above).  Some weeks I could just breeze through the material and the tests, and other weeks I really had to work at it.  Even so, I spent as more time on the unit on standards than I did on others (for reasons you might guess).  The last week, on Clinical Genomics was the toughest for me, even though I've had some exposure to the field, and work with experts in it in my standards work.  My main challenge was managing time for that last week, but the informatics challenges in that field are also immense.

I'm hoping to be in Riyadh when he teaches the last class of an i10x10 session being run here in person. Already I've run into at least three people who have graduated from the OHSU program, or are connected to it in some way. The first person I ran into (in Riyadh) had assumed that I had graduated from it already, about the same time as he did (14 years ago).  I laughed an explained my background to him.  He laughed as well.

I'm looking forward to next semester (to everything except the bill).  The only thing left inn the term at this point for me is to get my grades.  All my quizzes are complete, paper's finished, and finals are turned in, well in advance of the deadline.

Now I have to get back to work for my next deadline.


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