HOUSTON - (April 3, 2012) – Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., the Doris L. Ross Professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics, has been appointed the school’s interim dean. In this administrative role, he will lead the only school-level informatics program in the country entirely dedicated to biomedical and health informatics.
Zhang, an accomplished educator, administrator and investigator, succeeds Jack Smith, M.D., Ph.D., who stepped down from his administrative position as dean on April 1.
Zhang joined the UTHealth faculty 14 years ago and has been the associate dean for research at the School of Biomedical Informatics since 2002. As a scientist, he has spent the past two decades conducting research in biomedical informatics, cognitive science, human-centered computing, decision-making and information visualization. He is the principal investigator and director of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare and the recipient of the prestigious John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award.
“Dr. Zhang is a leader in his field and has helped to advance the academic mission and expand the research enterprise at the School of Biomedical Informatics,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., UTHealth’s president ad interim. “Though relatively young, the School of Biomedical Informatics already has established a legacy of achievement and immense potential. I am confident that Dr. Zhang’s leadership will facilitate the school’s advancement to the next level.”
The school, Zhang says, plays a revolutionary role in health care by training an educated workforce and also developing, refining and advancing the field of biomedical informatics through research, curriculum development and service.
“Biomedical and health informatics is a rapidly growing academic area,” Zhang said. “Health information technology is one of the very few industries that have grown at a double-digit rate, even during a severe recession. Today’s Health IT is like the Internet in the dot.com era, but with a major difference: It is not going to crash. There’s a huge and growing demand for what we do.”
There are plans to aggressively grow enrollment for the school’s master’s and certificate programs, Zhang said, and also expand its doctoral and post-doctoral training. In addition, he said, there are plans to recruit additional faculty members.
“We’re at the forefront of a transformational era – the Health IT Revolution,” Zhang said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with such talented and dedicated team members, and I look forward to working with the students, faculty, staff, collaborators and donors to advance the school’s mission.”
Smith, who served as dean of the school for nearly seven years, will continue in his role as a tenured professor. He was recruited from Ohio State University to become the first chairman of the Department of Health Informatics. He became interim dean in 2003 and was appointed dean in 2005.
The UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics is one of six schools on the UTHealth campus. It is the first school in the country devoted exclusively to graduate-level studies in biomedical and health informatics. It is nationally and internationally recognized for innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to education and research.
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