Center for Biomedical Informatics

The Center for Biomedical Informatics at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) was established in 2007 to strengthen CDU’s research, educational, and service capacity in the area of biomedical informatics.  Biomedical Informatics is a multi-disciplinary field that studies how biomedical data, information, and knowledge can be acquired, stored, communicated, and transformed to produce insights that improve human health. A goal of the Center is to reduce health disparities by providing informatics solutions to problems that affect medically underserved and under-resourced communities. Faculty members at the Center have backgrounds in computer science, clinical medicine, sociology, and public health.  

Current Center faculty members include Omolola Ogunyemi, PhD, FACMI (Director), Robert Jenders, MD, MS, FACP, FACMI, FAMIA (co-Director), Sheba George, PhD, and Sukrit Mukherjee, PhD.

The Center is currently funded by a mix of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center grants as well as individual research grants from the NIH, State of California and private foundations.  Faculty members also teach a required course, Principles of Biomedical Informatics, in the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences program at CDU.

In partnership with a variety of safety net clinics and hospitals, which provide care to individuals in the United States regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, individuals who may experience a digital divide, faculty members at the Center have conducted research and provided solutions on

  • telehealth to increase patient access to specialists; 
  • machine learning to improve diagnosis of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, which undetected can lead to eyesight loss; 
  • computerized decision support for chronic diseases that disproportionately affect individuals in medically underserved areas; 
  • sociotechnical expertise to support patient engagement in research and health care (e.g., training community health workers to improve patient care, including empowering patients to participate in telehealth);
  • mHealth apps for clinical assessments of mental health and substance abuse in patients of color;
  • smartphone-based mHealth apps to provide peer support for HIV prevention, substance abuse treatment, and related services for individuals leaving Southern California jails and prisons;  
  • international efforts to create health information systems standards. 

Five Million Dollar Endowment Funding
In order to develop a nationally recognized Center for Biomedical Informatics at CDU that expands our educational offerings and improves our research impact on underserved communities, the Center seeks to establish an endowment of at least $5,000,000.  An advisory committee has been convened to guide the strategic direction of the Center.

CDU Background
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) was founded as a Historically Black Graduate Institution in 1966 to address the problem of inadequate access to medical care in South Los Angeles, following the Watts Rebellion. Over 80 percent of CDU students are from communities of color. CDU is also a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. In 2017, the Chronicle of Higher Education named CDU the second most diverse four-year private nonprofit college in the United States. More than 80 percent of CDU students report returning to practice and provide much-needed care in medically underserved communities following graduation.  

Vision for the Center’s Future
Inspired by CDU's commitment to health equity for medically underserved communities as well as the University's vision of "excellent health and wellness for all in a world without health disparities," the Center seeks to expand its activities by:

  • creating a two-year master’s program in health informatics, that attracts a diverse group of students, with a thematic focus on addressing health disparities
  • recruiting new faculty members with complementary research interests that will be critical to the continued success of the Center, such as natural language processing
  • broadening existing efforts to address health disparities resulting from the digital divide in South Los Angeles communities, especially in the face of COVID-19, through increased collaborations with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and community health care organizations
  • advancing novel biomedical informatics research that addresses health disparities in the US and globally

Health Informatics Master’s Degree Program
In late 2019, the Center directors presented a proposal for a Health Informatics Master’s degree program to the CDU Provost’s Committee on New Programs and have received a favorable response for moving forward with establishing the program.  New faculty members will need to be recruited to implement the program, which will follow a hybrid model of remote and in-person courses.  The expected matriculation date for the first class of Health Informatics Master’s students is Fall, 2022.

We seek to graduate a diverse group of students that:

  • have mastery in biomedical informatics principles;are proficient in coding; 
  • are cognizant of social determinants of health, including the nature and impact of the digital divide in under-resourced communities and the health care settings that serve them; and 
  • have a firm grasp of relevant ethical issues in computing and biomedicine; 
    • are familiar with the importance of appropriate representation of different populations in clinical research and associated biomedical datasets, and 
    • understand the potential negative impact of inadequate representation of different populations from technological products that are based on unrepresentative data but presented as all-purpose solutions.