Researchers in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—lead humanity into the frontiers of discovery. Three researchers at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics explain what they do, why they do it, and how the next generation of female researchers can use their knowledge to improve health care and save lives.
Amy Franklin, PhD
"Throughout my career, my research has covered a wide range of topics from hearing-impaired children creating their own languages, to information foraging in hospitals, to how people and technology integrate within systems. My goal is to develop tools that help health care teams receive the right information at the right time. Distributing information across a system changes the way we think—and the way we work. This is true in everyday life. For example, we don’t remember phone numbers now because they are in our phones, or we can simply look the number up online. As technology evolves, so does the way we work.
I trained in psychology and linguistics. Both fields have a strong representation of women. UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics also has very diverse faculty and students. At the school, individuals may have trained in social science, engineering, or nursing. I think young women should find their place and push forward with what interests them, whether that is in STEM or another area. I tell my nieces the biggest boundaries they will find are the ones they choose to accept."
Constance M. Johnson, PhD ’03
"I always wanted to be a nurse. When I became one, I taught myself how to program and started working on databases for my hospital. Continuing my education at the School of Biomedical Informatics seemed like a perfect match.
We cannot provide nurses at a fast enough rate to keep up with the demand of our aging population. So, research at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth includes developing a smart apartment for older adults, people with disabilities, and anyone who needs help in the home. Because patients are at the center of health care, we want the smart apartment to have seamless and easy-to-use technology that helps people stay at home as they age. The system will notice any changes to one’s movements or actions that could indicate a stroke or massive fall—and notify the right people to get help. Ultimately, it could help prevent these events.
Women interested in STEM should broaden how they think by taking liberal arts courses like philosophy and social sciences. We need people who can think outside that technology box. Individuals with a liberal arts background can bring different experiences to solving problems."
Angela Ross, DNP
Prior to the implementation of electronic health records, a baby died from a medication error at a hospital. The error was caused by a breakdown in the workflow and the paper documentation. Later, when I saw what we could do with an electronic health record, I wondered if the baby could’ve lived had we not relied on paper records.
Several years later, I was a project manager overseeing the implementation of an electronic health record system in nine military sites in the United States and abroad. At the same time, I started working on my doctorate in nursing. My goal for the future was to teach so I applied to the School of Biomedical Informatics after I graduated. Within a year of graduating, I came here to work.
Biomedical informatics and technology, when implemented correctly, will deliver accurate data to the providers in a timely manner to improve decision making. When you improve access to accurate information, you can improve patient care.
I suggest young women get exposure to STEM so they can expand their educational options and see the impact they can make on improving health. Have patience and endurance—don’t give up."