Last month, Meharry Medical College announced the launch of a new data science initiative designed to accelerate the treatment and care of underserved populations.
The Data Science Institute at Meharry will allow healthcare providers, researchers and students to mine more than 3.5 million medical and dental records to gain new and unique insights into medical, social and environmental issues and trends impacting the health of minority populations and those with few resources.
Meharry Medical College President and CEO James E.K. Hildreth, PhD, MD, noted much of today's standards of care are based largely on data from Caucasian patients. He said Meharry anticipates the Institute's wealth of real-time, curated clinical data will fuel learning, discovery and improvements in the care for under-represented populations for years to come.
"This is a monumental day for Meharry and for the students and patients we serve," said Hildreth. "Big data is shaping the future of healthcare education, innovation and delivery, and Meharry students, faculty and partners now have a diverse and deep well of medical, social and environmental data at our fingertips. This unique and growing database will inform and enhance our mission to identify, analyze and address the health challenges facing minority and underserved populations."
The Institute's de-identified data will be pulled from 200,000 unique patients who visited Nashville General Hospital, Meharry Medical Group and Meharry's Dental School clinics over the last 10 years. Patients represented in the data are 48 percent male and 52 percent female, and the age breakdown is as follows: 0-18 years (20.76 percent), 19-25 (14.53 percent), 26-34 (19.24 percent), 35-54 (29.9 percent), 55-64 (9.59 percent), and 65 and older (5.99 percent).
The Institute, located on Meharry's campus, will initially target its research on four chronic diseases that disparately affect poor and minority populations: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Raw data already indicates some potential trends that will drive additional investigation including a 16 percent increase over the last two years in patients with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Amy M. Andrade, senior advisor to the president for Technology and Innovation and assistant vice president of Research at Meharry, has been tapped to lead the Institute. Clearsense, a Florida-based health data management company, has worked with Meharry for the past three years to build the data infrastructure for the Institute, which has a framework that should easily connect with other IT infrastructures or data sources to provide access to real data in real time.
The Institute also plans to release quarterly research papers on its findings and recommendations, as well as host at least one annual conference. It also will support new areas of research and study at Meharry, beginning with the first Data Science Survey Class in January and a Certificate of Data Sciences, which will be offered in the 2019-20 academic year.
Hildreth unveiled the Institute on Sept. 13 during the Global Action Platform's Fall University-Business Showcase at ONEC1TY. Mayor David Briley made opening remarks, and was joined by Dr. Scott T. Massey, founding chairman and CEO of Global Action Platform and other community leaders at the event.