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Population Health Informatics Program | September 2021

Ashish Joshi Ph.D., MBBS, MPH

Senior Associate Dean

Student and Academic Affairs

Welcome to the launch of our inaugural newsletter in Population Health Informatics Innovation, Research, and Education (PHIIRE). Every month, we will bring together recent updates and highlights of what is happening in the field of population health informatics. We will aggregate and summarize the latest population health informatics news as well as disseminate critical highlights, such as information on new health technologies, skill-building workshops, and job opportunities related to the field of population health informatics.

I would also like to congratulate the students of the MS and Certificate program in population health informatics on their initiation of the CUNY SPH PHIIRE student club. In this inaugural newsletter, we present some of the numerous accomplishments of students and alumni of the CUNY SPH Population Health Informatics program.

With much appreciation,

Ashish Joshi

I too want to welcome all the incoming and returning CUNY SPH Population Health Informatics (PHI) students and congratulate you, program alumni as well as Dean Joshi on the formation of the PHIRE student club.  I know that you will all do great things with the PHI training you receive and that this club will be an amazing opportunity for you to put that training into practice. 

Elizabeth Kelvin

Associate Professor & Chair

Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Table of Contents

  1. New Population Health Informatics Faculty
  2. Save the Date
  3. Research Highlight
  4. Global Health Informatics Tool
  5. Student Spotlight Series
  6. PHIIRE Club

Welcome, New Population Health Informatics Faculty!

Karmen S. Williams is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management. She completed a post-doctorate fellowship in public and population health informatics at Indiana University and Regenstrief Institute. Her research focused on systemic informatics integration projects such as Patient-Centered Data Homes and dental and medical record integration.                             

Dr. Williams is also actively involved in the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), where she is the  Co-Chair of the Pipeline Subcommittee in the Women in AMIA, Chair of the Dental Informatics Working Group, and Director of ‘For Your Informatics’, a podcast that explores the limitless world of medical informatics. This podcast is led by the Women in AMIA, and showcases people in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and informatics, and discusses topics relevant to success in these fields. Dr. Williams is passionate about increasing representation in STEM at the system level in all areas of informatics.

 Dr. Jose Florez-Arango is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Dr. Florez is originally from Colombia, South America. He earned his MD and MSc in biomedical sciences from Universidad de Antioquia, and his Ph.D. in health informatics from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. D. Florez-Arango has broad experience in teaching, research, and innovation in prehospital care and emergency management, telemedicine, clinical decision support systems, development of health information systems based-on international standards, interoperability, and controlled vocabularies. As a university professor, he has covered knowledge domains in human physiology, medical semiology, physician-patient relationship, urgencies emergencies and disasters, and health informatics, among others disciplines.

Academic Programs

Population Health Informatics (PHI) addresses the growing opportunity to use technology to implement evidence-based solutions for the improvement of population health outcomes. While most health informatics programs take a hospital-centric approach, this innovative first-of-its-kind PHI program focuses on how to operationalize informatics solutions to address important public health challenges impacting individuals, families, communities, and the environment in which they live. Read More

Here at the CUNY SPH we offer two PHI training opportunities:

(1) MS in Population Health Informatics

  • A fully online 39 credits program where students learn to use technology at the intersection of clinical care and health sciences in order to strengthen efforts for preventive care at the population level. Students are provided with the skills and expertise to design, develop, implement, and evaluate technology enabled interventions and solutions to address the population health challenges facing us today.

(2) Certificate Population Health Informatics

  • The Population Health Informatics (PHI) Certificate focuses on the application of technology in designing and deploying interventions to address public health challenges in the 21st century. This fully online program aims to teach students how to design, develop, implement, and evaluate technology enabled population health interventions and solutions.

Up-Coming PHI Talks For Which You Should Save the Date

September 15, 2021 4 PM | Webinar

Training Data for Machine Learning (ML) to Enhance Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) Data Infrastructure Project

September 23 and 24, 2021 | Webinar

SRA Tool Overview and Feedback

September 30, 2021 11 AM | Webinar

John A. Stankovic- Towards Ambient Intelligence in Smart Healthcare

September 30, 2021 8 AM | Webinar

Interoperability: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Technical Aspects of Telehealth Services

PHI In The News

Regenstrief teaching electronic medical record (tEMR) platform: a novel tool for teaching and evaluating applied health information technology

Since its conception in 2013, the Regenstrief Institute along with the Indiana University School of Medicine, Eskenazi Health, and the American Medical Association created the Regenstrief Teaching EMR (tEMR) to improve upon previous Electronic Health record training. tEMR is a derivative of a real-world electronic health record used by health professional schools to help students learn about common health information technology (HIT) tools and issues. The aim of this tool is to encourage students-future educators, administrators, and practice leaders to start developing HIT insights to help influence how HIT should be used in health care.

Launch of COVID Digital Health Centre of Excellence (DICE)

The multi-agency COVID-19 Digital Health Center of Excellence (DICE), co-led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), provides coordinated technical assistance to countries to support sustainable and scalable deployment of carefully chosen digital health solutions that support COVID-19 pandemic response plans. The focus is strengthening health systems — from planning the distribution of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines to monitoring coverage of services, and communicating to reach people and reduce misinformation.


WHO compendium of innovative health technologies for low-resource settings 2021. COVID-19 and other health priorities

  • Health technologies are essential for a functioning health system. The response to the global COVID-19 pandemic crisis has exacerbated the need for rapid evidence- based assessments of innovative health technologies to ensure safe and appropriate use. The compendium selects innovative technologies that can have an immediate or future impact on the COVID-19 preparedness and response. Read More

Applications of digital health for public health responses to COVID-19: a systematic scoping review of artificial intelligence, telehealth and related technologies

  • This study aims to review applications of artificial intelligence (AI), telehealth, and other relevant digital health solutions for public health responses in the healthcare operating environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

Global Health Informatics Tool

Ashish Joshi, Senior Associate Dean Academic and Student Affairs and Professor of CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in collaboration with researchers globally designed and developed SMAART Rapid Tracker, research enabled action-oriented policy interventions driven by data, an innovative policy informatics tool aimed to track the geospatial spread of COVID-19 outbreak and policy actions globally. The dashboard aggregates publicly available but verified information on the burden of COVID-19 and vaccine uptake globally. Currently, the tracker has provided experiential learning opportunities to nearly 300 students with a representation from those pursuing public health, recent graduates, and those aspiring to become public health professionals. We welcome students interested in experiential learning opportunities using SMAART RAPID Tracker. 

SMAART Rapid Tracker: New Global Cases

SMAART Rapid Tracker: New Vaccination Counts

Last Accessed August 30, 2021

For more visualizations, visit SMAART Rapid Tracker at smaartrapidtracker.org.

Student Recognitions

We’re excited to share that two of our Population Health Informatic students were awarded at CUNY SPH’s Online Commencement Ceremony in June 2021:

Rafaela Villacres received the Dean’s Merit Award for Commitment for her work in advancing public health research, advocacy, and leadership. She serves as a Research Coordinator at the Research Foundation of CUNY under the supervision of Dr. Joshi to assist in scaling the population health informatics program to enhance student academic success, opportunities, and career outcomes. She currently serves as the Alumni Ambassador for the Population Health Informatics Innovation, Research, and Education (PHIIRE) Club, which she founded last semester.

With the knowledge she gained from the program, she co-founded PBC Labs, a software development company that aims to leverage information science, technology, and public health to conceptualize, develop, and drive mobile health interventions. She serves as the product manager and leads a diverse team of engineers and designers. Their mission is to reduce the gap in health disparities among underserved or vulnerable populations and empower community-based organizations to improve population health outcomes. 

Amina Alam worked full-time while pursuing her degree, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and was awarded the EPI-BIOS Departmental Award for Excellence for her high-quality work. She graduated in 2016 from CUNY City College where she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology and began working as a public health inspector at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Healthy Homes Program. After two years of responding to pediatric lead poisonings and other field inspections, she became a senior public health inspector and noticed how meaningful use of data can really improve functions and productivity in her workplace. She graduated from CUNY SPH in May 2021 and now looks forward to applying its principles in her current career.

Congratulations to our fellow graduates and their most recent achievements!

Student Spotlight

Erica Rowe-Owen is the President of the PHIIRE organization for Fall 2021. She serves as the Operations Program Coordinator for the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at Bronx Community College and is tasked with providing operational and analytical support to the team of academic advisors, administrative and management team; but most importantly – to the students enrolled in the program. With the skills gained from the program, her goal is to build and use dashboards to provide population-based health care to the college communities through efficient data management processes including documentation, reporting, and analysis of students’ health data. She is an advocate for student development and strongly supports the idea that no CUNY student should fail to graduate or achieve academic success because of unmet basic needs relating to food & housing insecurity, mental health challenges, violence, or inability to access much-needed health care.

Student Blog

Using interactive digital notebooks for bioscience and informatics education: A Brief Review

By: Rafaela Villacres

As population health informaticians, we’re tasked with designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating technology-enabled solutions to drive evidence-based decision-making practices in tackling the public health challenges of our times. We utilize information technologies to integrate data and information to address the social determinants of health that influence health outcomes and drive population-level disparities. The data used on this scale comes from several public health resources, including governmental and organizational sources.

As students, we seek resources that can teach us things outside the classroom that will be a transferrable and valuable skillset in the field. We’re looking for flexible and affordable study options that allow us to learn at our own pace to reduce student burnout. The researchers in this study highlight how they integrated digital notebooks (specifically Jupyter notebooks) to teach lay and technical audience Python programming and database skills for Clinical Bioinformatics and Health Informatics students. Jupyter notebooks are an open-source web application created by Project Jupyter, which allows the sharing of code, data analysis, visualizations, math formulas, and other embedded media, all in a single document combining interactive and narrative components.1 The Jupyter system supports over 100 programming languages including, Python, Java, R, SQL, Matlab, and many more.

Both staff and students alike found using Jupyter notebooks as a valuable resource for learning to code and communicating research findings and analysis. The use of interactive digital notebooks integrated into a master’s and certificate informatics curriculum allows non-coders to leverage computer science practices and gives experienced coders the ability to refine their skillsets to propose technology-enabled interventions. The fieldwork component of the MS Population Health Informatics degree at CUNY SPH does just that. It allows students to learn hands-on technical skills used in the field to drive evidence-based decision-making processes with sound data visualizations. These interactive modules prove beneficial for the thesis component of their master’s degrees and if they decide to move into academia later on in their careers.

Davies A, Hooley F, Causey-Freeman P, Eleftheriou I, Moulton G (2020) Using interactive digital notebooks for bioscience and informatics education. PLoS Comput Biol 16(11): e1008326. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008326

Population Health Informatics Innovation, Research &

Education (P.H.I.I.R.E) Club

Welcome to the 2021-2022 academic year to our new and returning students. To the members of the Population Health Informatics program, healthcare professionals are relying on informatics now more than ever to support not only population health initiatives but to also create evidence-based metrics in designing plans of care, and evidence-based solutions in improving population health outcomes globally. And, to the PHIIRE Club Members, I look forward to that time when we can all safely return to campus and host various activities.  We have a great semester ahead of us with an amazing speaker series, unveiling of the first Population Health Informatics Newsletter, a Digital Hackathon in collaboration with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), and optional monthly check-in sessions with faculty, and peers.

Erica Rowe-Owen, President

Welcome everyone to the 2021-2022 academic year at CUNY SPH! We are excited for our next cohort of graduates, so we welcome new and returning students. The MS Population Health Informatics Program in collaboration with the PHIIRE Club wants to ensure that students are being engaged in class and outside as well. We are currently living in a digital world, but we still want to foster campus engagement and opportunities for all students remotely. As someone who made it through the program herself, I am keen to help prospective and current students navigate this journey. I hope you all have a great semester and look forward to working with you!

Rafaela Villacres, Alumni Ambassador

Join us!!