Meharry Medical College Launches Data Science Institute Fueling Learning and Care Improvements for Minorities and Underserved
Meharry Medical College has announced the launch of its new initiative, the Data Science Institute, a historic development in the treatment and care of minority populations and the poor.
The institute will allow health care practitioners, 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 that impact the health of minority populations and the poor. As today’s care standards are based largely on data from Caucasian patients, Meharry anticipates that the wealth of real-time, curated clinical data will fuel learning, discovery and improvements in care for these populations for years to come.
Meharry Medical College President and CEO James E.K. Hildreth Sr., Ph.D., M.D., unveiled the institute Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 during the Global Action Platform’s Fall University-Business Showcase at ONEC1TY. Nashville Mayor David Briley made opening remarks, and was joined by Dr. Scott T. Massey, founding chairman and CEO of Global Action Platform, as well as other community leaders at the event.
“This is a monumental day for Meharry and for the students and patients we serve,” said Dr. Hildreth. “Big data is shaping the future of health care 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.”
The Institute’s data is pulled from 200,000 unique patients who visited Nashville General Hospital, Meharry Medical Group and Meharry’s dental school clinics over the last ten years. Patients represented in the data are 48 percent male and 52 percent female, with a broad age breakdown. The data is anonymous, scrubbed of all personal health information and identifying details.
“This unique and growing database will inform and enhance our mission to identify, analyze and address the health challenges facing minority and underserved populations,” Dr. Hildreth said.
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 from the institute already indicates some potential trends that will drive additional investigation. Of the total patient population seen by the Meharry-Nashville General Hospital network in the last five years, 19 percent were diagnosed with either hypertension or diabetes, and, in the last two years, the number of patients seen with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has risen 16 percent.
The institute plans to release quarterly research papers on its findings and recommendations, and host at least one annual conference. It also will support new areas of research and study at Meharry, beginning with the first data science service class in January and a Certificate of Data Sciences, which will be offered in the 2019-20 academic year.
“I applaud Meharry and Nashville General for putting in place data infrastructure to build their understanding of their patients’ needs,” said Dr. Bill Paul, director of the Metropolitan Health Department. “Nashville is changing, and our health needs are changing, so it is important to use data and track changes to help guide policies and decisions, both within health care systems and for the community as a whole.”