Eric Wang

Last week, the School of Public Health announced the creation of a new Master of Science degree in Health Informatics, to which prospective students can apply this year and matriculate next fall.

The two-year degree program is designed to train students in the rapidly growing field of health informatics, which relies on “applied research and the practice of informatics across clinical and public health domains,” according to the School’s website. Students pursuing the degree will take classes in information science, clinical informatics, data science and health policy, among other disciplines. Funding to develop the program will come from the School of Public Health, but the School has not yet finalized the program’s budget, according to Cynthia Brandt, the future director of the program as well as a professor of emergency medicine and of anesthesiology.

Kei-Hoi Cheung, a professor of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, said the admissions committee is looking for a wide range of students from “diverse backgrounds.” He added that he expects that many of the admitted students may have a background in computer science or mathematics.

According to Sten Vermund, dean of the School of Public Health, an increase in the digitization of health records and of the medical field at large has increased the demand for such a degree.

“The world of informatics is far greater than the world of health,” said Vermund. “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the potential in the field of health informatics.”

While the curriculum is yet to be finalized, Brandt said that students pursuing the degree will also take classes required of other students at the School of Public Health in order to ensure they are “integrated within the school.”

Brandt first considered options for introducing a health informatics degree approximately 10 years ago to address “a lot of requests from students.” She pitched her plan for the new degree to the School of Public Health’s administration at the beginning of 2017. Vermund, who had only recently been appointed dean at the time, warmly received her proposal and allowed her to move ahead with planning the new program.

“The timing is right,” Brandt said. “Health informatics is more than just data. Population health informatics is an important area, and, right now, there’s a huge gap in our school.”

According to Cheung, following the completion of the program, graduates will ideally serve as “liaison[s]” between statistics and health fields. He added that the ability to bridge these fields would help tackle research inquiries and solve problems involving large data sets.

Vermund said that there was “tremendous demand” in various health systems for expertise in informatics.

“I think data science is growing,” Cheung said. “So a lot of public health data sets are available quite rapidly and in large amount, so people with data science [background can] use knowledge to try to help manage, analyze and interpret data.”

The School of Public Health was founded in 1915.

Carly Wanna| carly.wanna@yale.edu