Paul Murdock, informatics intern
Paul Murdock, an undergraduate student, presented his research at the AMIA 2018 Informatics Summit

The opportunities available to young informaticians are endless—and they just keep growing. For undergraduate student Paul Murdock, an informatics intern and junior in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s Medical Sciences program, opportunity recently brought him to the AMIA Informatics Summit.

Murdock is a student informatics intern with Dr. Danny Wu, PhD of the University of Cincinnati Department of Biomedical Informatics. In March, he traveled to San Francisco with Dr. Wu to present at the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2018 Informatics Summit. There, his understanding of the world of informatics—and how it could change the future of healthcare—greatly expanded.

The AMIA Informatics Summit gathers informatics professionals from around the world. They come from diverse backgrounds, but share one common thread: All are committed to transforming health through informatics.

The event focused on several areas of informatics: Translational, clinical research, implementation, and data science. As a first-time attendee, Murdock was surprised to discover the full breadth of informatics research. “I didn’t have a great appreciation for how much goes into each area,” he says. “It’s very hard to be an ‘expert’ in informatics! You really have to focus on a subfield.”

Despite this avalanche of new information, Murdock embraced the wealth of research and data with the vigor that comes from a solid educational foundation. 

Still, there was much to learn about the nuances of informatics—and that was his favorite part of the experience. “I had no idea what high performance clustering was, but I did know what a BLAST sequence was from my genetics class,” he says. “Seeing someone combine these two and create an informatics project out of it was amazing!”

Murdock was also able to share his own research in a poster presentation: “Contextual Inquiry of the Research Data Flow of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Stroke Study.” He was excited to see people express interest in his work, and to discover what others in the informatics community were doing.

“Outside of reading journal articles and talking to team members in my own lab, this was the first time I got to see what the world of informatics was doing,” he says. “It really broadened my perspective.”

The conference allowed Murdock to network with faculty he’d previously only dreamed of meeting. He even got to spend time with Dr. Douglas Fridsma, the President and CEO of AMIA. They talked about medical school, current research, and helpful resources. “He said he was excited to see me at the AMIA summit,” says Murdock. “I never imagined making such a valuable friend from this experience.”

Murdock’s interest in bioinformatics is rooted in a love for computers. The summer after his freshman year, he began teaching himself basic skills in mobile app creation. This led to a summer internship with the Ohio State University’s Department of Biomedical Informatics.

As the summer ended, Murdock continued working part-time with OSU researchers until the end of his sophomore year. One of the researchers was a previous colleague of Dr. Wu’s, and connected him with Murdock. They’ve been working together ever since.

Murdock has found that his program studies and informatics intern research work are both helping him reach his future career goals. “Medical Sciences provides me with the scientific foundation required to get into medical school, whereas experience in the Clinical Informatics lab gives me an understanding of what goes on in the hospital,” says Murdock. “I get firsthand experience fixing real-world problems. We are currently working with inpatient social workers at UC, aiming to improve their clinical workflow.”

After attending the AMIA Summit, Murdock is now considering getting an MD/PhD for the first time. He never thought he’d want to do both, but after seeing how physician researchers are able to utilize both degrees, he has a greater understanding of the real-world benefits—and the opportunities that come along with them.

To learn more about experienced-based learning in informatics for undergraduate students, contact Dr. Danny Wu

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