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Jiajie Zhang, PhD

Jiajie Zhang, PhD

Dean, McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics


Jiajie Zhang, PhD, is dean, professor, and The Glassell Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Informatics Excellence at McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics at UTHealth Houston, where he was also director of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare. In addition, Zhang is on faculty at MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Since his appointment as dean in March of 2013, Zhang has been responsible for the rapid growth of McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics — tripling faculty and student numbers, as well as research expenditures — through targeted faculty and student recruitment efforts; reshaping academic foci, programs, and curricula; developing tactical partnerships with academic, governmental, and professional institutions; and building the school’s research capacity and scope through the creation of eight research centers and six application cores. In addition, he helped secure support for the school’s 40,000-square-foot facilities expansion and led a major effort to bolster philanthropic funding. Under Zhang’s leadership, McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics has become a national/international leader in biomedical informatics and medical AI. As dean, he continually seeks to identify and pursue collaborative opportunities for McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics to utilize informatics, data science, and artificial intelligence in a manner that will enhance the work of its internal and external partners — locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

Zhang has conducted pioneering research on distributed knowledge representations and their effects on decision-making, problem-solving, and human-computer interaction, and was early to recognize the importance of usability, design, and cognitive support in health information technology. In continuing that work at UTHealth Houston, Zhang led the SHARPC Project arm of the Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) Program, a seminal consortium funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to support innovative research that would address well-documented problems impeding the adoption and use of health IT. Zhang’s SHARPC Project focused on enhancing patient-centered cognitive support in electronic health records and health information technology, and resulted in the creation of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare.

Zhang has more than 30 years of research, education, application, and management experience in biomedical informatics, cognitive science, human technology integration, information visualization, usability and workflow, decision-making, and machine learning. He has authored over 180 publications and has been the principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or co-investigator on numerous grants and contracts with a total cumulative value of $202 million. Zhang has trained a large number of doctoral and master’s degree students and postdoctoral fellows.

Zhang was a recipient of the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award from UTHealth Houston and a recipient of the George H.W. Bush Award from the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association. He is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, the American Medical Informatics Association, and the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics. His expertise is sought for panels, committees, councils, speaking engagements, and editorial boards in the U.S. and abroad.

In 1998, Zhang was recruited to McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics (formerly the School of Health Information Sciences) from The Ohio State University, where he was an assistant professor of psychology and a member of the Center for Cognitive Science. Zhang received his master’s degree and PhD in cognitive science (world’s first) from the University of California San Diego and his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Science and Technology of China (through the Special Class for the Gifted Young).

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