Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., named dean of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics

Published February 19, 2013 by Meredith Raine


HOUSTON – (Feb. 19, 2013) – Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., the Dr. Doris L. Ross Professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Biomedical Informatics, will be appointed dean of the school effective March 1, UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D. announced today.

“Dr. Zhang is a leader in his field and has helped to advance the academic mission and expand the research enterprise at the School of Biomedical Informatics,” Colasurdo said. “Though relatively young, the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics already has firmly established its reputation for innovation and achievement. I am confident that Dr. Zhang’s leadership will facilitate the school’s advancement to the next level.”

The announcement comes after the recent completion of a national search.

Zhang, an accomplished educator, administrator and investigator, has served as interim dean since April 1, 2012, succeeding Jack Smith, M.D., Ph.D., who served as dean of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics for nearly seven years. In his role as dean, Zhang will lead the only school-level informatics program in the nation entirely dedicated to biomedical and health informatics.

George M. Stancel, Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and research affairs, said, “Not only has Dr. Zhang had a major impact within the School of Biomedical Informatics, but he has also contributed significantly to the other UTHealth schools, the UT System and national programs in the broad area of informatics.  His own work has brought recognition to UTHealth and the School of Biomedical Informatics in the informatics community, and I am looking forward to working with him in his role as dean.”

Zhang became a member of the UTHealth faculty in 1998 and served as the associate dean for research at the School of Biomedical Informatics from 2002 to 2012. As a scientist, he has spent the past two decades conducting research in biomedical informatics, cognitive science, human-centered computing, medical decision making and information visualization. He is the principal investigator and director of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Health care and a 2002 recipient of the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award.

“Biomedical and health informatics is a rapidly growing field,” Zhang said. “Health information technology is one of the few industries that has grown at a double-digit rate, even during a severe recession. There’s a huge and rapidly increasing demand for what we do.

“In response to that demand, we will continue to aggressively grow enrollment for the school’s certificate and master’s programs and expand doctoral and post-doctoral training for future academicians and researchers,” Zhang said.

During his time as the interim dean, Zhang has led the school’s curriculum redesign efforts to meet the emerging needs of students. The curriculum changes focus on the needs of doctoral-level biomedical researchers in healthcare quality and safety and big data analytics as well as master’s and certificate-level health IT workers who facilitate electronic health records adoption.

Zhang has also hired several new faculty members to reinforce the school’s expertise in natural language processing, bioinformatics and patient safety. He said he plans to add more faculty members over the next few years. Under Zhang’s leadership and with support from the president’s office, the school has completed its space consolidation plans to improve communication and collaboration.

“We’re at the forefront of a transformational era in our field, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve with such talented, dedicated team members,” Zhang said. “I look forward to working with the students, faculty, staff, collaborators and donors as we continue to advance the school’s mission.”

The UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics is one of six schools on the UTHealth campus and the first school in the country devoted exclusively to graduate-level studies in biomedical and health informatics. It is nationally and internationally recognized for innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to education and research in the field of biomedical informatics.

For more information, visit http://sbmi.uth.edu and the school’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.