Meharry Medical Colleges Launches New Data Science Institute

Historically Black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, has launched the Data Science Institute that will enhance the treatment and care of Black Americans 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 insights into various trends that impact the health of underserved populations.

The institute’s data comes from 200,000 unique and anonymous patients who visited Nashville General Hospital, Meharry Medical Group, and Meharry’s dental school clinics over the last 10 years. The initial research at the new institute will focus on four chronic diseases and conditions that are prevalent among underserved populations: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

After examining some raw data, researchers have already indicated some potential trends that will drive their upcoming research. Some 19 percent of all patients at the three medical centers had either hypertension or diabetes and the number of patients with type 2 diabetes rose 16 percent over the last two years.

“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,” said Meharry President Dr. James E.K. Hildreth Sr. “This unique and growing database will inform and enhance our mission to identify, analyze and address the health challenges facing minority and underserved populations.”

The new research institute plans to release quarterly reports on its findings and recommendations and host at least one annual conference. Additionally, it will support new areas of research and study at the college. The first data science class will begin this January and a certificate program in data sciences will be offered in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Dr. Hildreth has been president of Meharry Medical College since 2015. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University, a Ph.D. in immunology from Oxford University in England, and a medical from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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