As the son of immigrants, my priorities were (in order) family, education (aka cognitive fitness), physical fitness, and fun with friends. While in high school, my father clearly articulated that my path should include both engineering and medicine, foreseeing the intersection of medicine and technology. In college, I spent time as an electrical and computer engineer learning the foundations of information technology and engineering. Immersed in in coding through higher object learning languages, I found an interest in semiconductor physics that took me on a spiritual journey waymarked by ones and zeroes. Independent of the metaphysical and philosophical, the engineering degree provided me with an important substrate for problem solving.
Understanding that I wanted a career that was at the intersection of information science, technology, and medicine, it was important to understand how intellectual property flowed within the United States and globally. I was afforded the opportunity to spend about a year at the United States Patent and Trademark Office between undergraduate and medical school as a patent examiner. Once in medical school, with my background in engineering and problem solving, I gravitated towards internal medicine as my future specialty.
In residency, I was preparing to become a cardiac electrophysiologist. Given my background, the career path certainly made sense. Due to my interest in computers and technology, I was selected to attend specialized electronic health record training in my second year of residency at the Epic headquarters in Verona, Wisconsin. I was the only resident at this training, surrounded by health system leaders, chief information officers, and others. We were all there to learn and take our knowledge back for systematic improvement. This opportunity opened my eyes to a whole new career path of clinical informatics. The field of clinical informatics was new to me, but I realized there was an opportunity that would combine my intellectual passions. I learned of an official board certification through the American Board of Preventative Medicine and ultimately, I found a career path.
Having some free time during chief residency year, I devoted my effort to informatics. At the analyst level, I built electronic health record related workflows and analytic paradigms. Through successes during that year, Wake Forest leadership recognized the value of clinical informatics playing a central role in the future of medicine.
I was recruited to join the faculty by the chair of Internal Medicine to devote time as a coordinator of medical informatics for the Department of Internal Medicine. Over the course of a few years gaining more skills and training, I was promoted to the new position of Vice Chair of Informatics and Analytics for the Department of Internal Medicine. Since that appointment, I also have been involved on the institutional level for many of the informatics projects that affect clinical care.
I have learned to build both within the Epic infrastructure as well as outside of the infrastructure.
For many years prior to the advent of electronic health records and deep connectivity we see today across all realms, medicine could live within a one-dimensional space. As the information substrate and society have evolved, medicine is now clearly multidimensional. There is a chasm in the depth and complexity of how various entities within the healthcare system interact with information science technology and embed that into medical practice and clinical care.
Part of the challenge is developing physicians who understand this intersectionality. To address this workforce challenge, we developed the Clinical Scholars and Informatics Program at Wake Forest.1 It is important to ensure that the physicians of the future have health information technology literacy as competency… I believe that health information technology literacy, data science, and the integration into clinical workflows is the future of medicine and that building a cadre of physicians with this understanding is essential for the practice of medicine to thrive.
- Hernandez S, Feiereisel K, Dharod A. Clinical scholars in informatics: A resident-driven applied informatics pathway. SGIM Forum. https://connect.sgim.org/sgimforum/viewdocument/clinical-scholars-in-informatics. Published June 2021. Accessed August 15, 2022.
ACLGIM, Career Development, Health Policy & Advocacy, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education
Dr. Dharod (firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice chair of informatics and analytics in the Department of Internal Medicine and an assistant professor of medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine