UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics welcomes two new faculty members and the new associate dean for management

Published February 01, 2013 by Sarah Kelly

Wenjin (Jim) Zheng, PhD comes to UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics from the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was an assistant professor of bioinformatics. His research interests include genomic research, systems biology and biological knowledge integration and representation. Zheng starts at the school on February 1 as an associate professor of biomedical informatics. In the fall, he’ll teach Introduction to Bioinformatics; subsequently, he plans to teach more courses at SBMI, which may cover areas in advanced computer science, bioinformatics and translational bioinformatics.

Zheng currently has three funded projects, which he hopes to more fully develop at SBMI as a contribution to the longer-term goal of personalized medicine.

  1. “Developing a 3D Browser to Explore Genomes” seeks to develop a full-fledged, platform-independent system that will enable biologists to build and refine their own 3D genome models to analyze their data. Current genome browsers are specifically aimed at viewing primary sequence information. This project will improve 3D models, facilitating better visualization and modeling for the full array of genomic interactions—leading to further insights into genomic functions. (http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1161542)
  2. “Bridging Genomics and Medicine by Ontology Fingerprints” proposes to develop an ontology fingerprint-derived gene network to study human disease. (http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?projectnumber=1R56LM010680-01A1)            
  3. “Modeling and Analysis of Roles of Yeast Sphingolipid” will identify novel genes that potentially modulate the sphingolipid pathway—which is relevant to cancer, among other human diseases—and apply a methodology to study the role of that pathway in the pathogenesis of cancer. This grant is funded by the NIH through a subcontract from Stony Brook University in New York.


Peter Killoran, MS, MD, comes to SBMI from The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where he will continue as an assistant professor of anesthesiology. He will divide his time between the two schools and join SBMI as an assistant professor of biomedical informatics on March 1. At SBMI, Killoran will continue to pursue his interest in improving healthcare quality and safety through Health IT and biomedical informatics with the goal of achieving a positive impact on clinical decision making and, ultimately, patient outcomes. In addition to his ongoing involvement in the work of SHARP-C, Killoran plans to increase his involvement with HIT and informatics collaborations with the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.

With his SBMI appointment, Killoran will utilize his skills as a clinician-informatician. He has already implemented several protocols at other institutions that merge these two roles. For example, as an active member of the Memorial Hermann Hospital Medical Informatics Committee, he championed the adoption of an electronic Anesthesia Information Management system across the entire Memorial Hermann Hospital System. Additionally, he is on the eDocumentation Editorial Committee, which has been charged with the task of transitioning all clinical documentation from paper to an electronic format. 

Killoran believes that there is a tremendous need and opportunity for informatics expertise and data-driven techniques to improve the quality and safety of patient care. With the recent recognition of Informatics as a clinical sub-specialty, he hopes to launch a Clinical Informatics Fellowship program that formalizes collaborations between SBMI, the medical school and TMC hospitals, while fostering the development of the next generation of clinician-informaticians.

Killoran received his Sc. B in Geology-Biology from Brown University, MS in Geography from University of Oregon, MD from Dartmouth Medical School, Internship and Residency training at UTHealth Medical School, and postdoctoral training in biomedical informatics under the Keck/National Library of Medicine training program.

Ryan Bien, MHA has accepted the position of associate dean for management at SBMI, starting on February 16. Bien has 14 years of experience at UTHealth, serving the past 7 years as the Director of Finance for the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs. His experience includes hospital/clinic administration, managed care contracting and physician recruitment. Bien has a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Healthcare Administration from Trinity University.

Nancy McNiel and Claire Brunson have helped the school tremendously on an interim basis for the past half year. They will stay in their current roles for a few more weeks to facilitate the transition.