Top Medical Informatics Expert Recruited to South Carolina Through CoEE Program

November 10, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – November 10, 2008 – To help South Carolina gain an edge in clinical trials research, a top expert in research databases and web-based clinical research systems has been recruited to South Carolina through the state’s Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) Program.
Dr. Jihad S. Obeid has been recruited as a CoEE Endowed Chair in Biomedical Informatics at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Medical informatics is a field that focuses on managing and processing data, information and knowledge to improve healthcare practice and delivery.
The CoEE Program was created by the S.C. General Assembly in 2002. It invests lottery funds to create research centers at the state’s three research universities (Clemson University, University of South Carolina and MUSC) and to attract world-renowned scientists or endowed chairs to the state. The program mandate is to create high-paying jobs in South Carolina and improve the standard of living for citizens.
Dr. Obeid will work with information technology professionals throughout South Carolina to develop software and infrastructure that help researchers share data and collaborate across hospitals and universities. He is known nationally for developing innovative software to manage complex datasets in clinical settings.
By making clinical trial information easier to collect and analyze, medical informatics systems enable researchers to conduct rigorous studies and more easily compare the effectiveness of different treatments for a given disease. This allows treatments to move from the lab to the patient faster and more efficiently.
“By increasing our leadership in clinical trials research, South Carolina is more likely to attract pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, which rely on clinical trials to test their products,” says Dr. John Raymond, MUSC’s vice president for academic affairs. “These companies would invest millions of dollars and create high-paying jobs that would invigorate South Carolina’s economy and raise the standard of living.”
As a CoEE endowed chair, Obeid will help lead the Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety Center, one of 43 centers funded through the CoEE Program. The Center is a public-private partnership among South Carolina’s three research universities and Health Sciences South Carolina, a statewide biomedical research collaborative that has contributed a significant portion of the required dollar-for-dollar non-state match.
Dr. Obeid will work with Dr. John J. Schaefer III, another CoEE endowed chair in the Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety CoEE. The two will develop better ways to collect, organize, transfer and interpret data generated through the Simulation Center Network, a group of seven existing or planned facilities throughout South Carolina. He will also work closely with Drs. Iain Sanderson and Jay Moskowitz, endowed chair holders at the CoEE for Healthcare Quality at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Obeid will work specifically with Dr. Sanderson to create statewide biomedical informatics programs such as a clinical data warehouse (CDW). CDWs can hasten the development of clinical trials due to the way they optimize data for research. As a result, such information warehouses make it easier to conduct statewide clinical trials, improve the quality and efficiency of those trials, and integrate information from multiple sites.
“We are working to build informatics in South Carolina to make the jobs of researchers easier by providing them with access to databases and tools so that they can accomplish more,” Obeid explains.
Dr. Obeid says that he has chosen to move his work to South Carolina because of exciting new opportunities in the field that have arisen as the result of a critical mass of informatics expertise being developed in the state. He notes that South Carolina is ahead of the curve in bioinformatics and that his work will focus more on clinical informatics—dealing with data about patient outcomes. Better data management and sharing can help raise the level of patient care in South Carolina, he says.
“South Carolina has an excellent set of programs in biomedical informatics, but they need to be consolidated to be even more effective,” he says. “I believe that my work will help to crystallize this effort. South Carolina is fertile ground for innovation in this field, and I am eager to join the team of professionals who will help the state become a leader in the field.”
In addition to his CoEE endowed chair position, Obeid will be director of academic informatics for the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Epidemiology at MUSC.
“We are thrilled to have someone of Dr. Obeid’s caliber working in our state and we are thankful that the S.C. General Assembly has had the vision to make it a reality through the CoEE Program,” says CoEE Review Board Chair Paula Harper Bethea.
Dr. Obeid arrives to South Carolina from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, where he was associate director for biomedical informatics at the Clinical and Translational Science Center and associate research professor of pediatrics. He previously worked at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, in Boston. Obeid completed fellowships in pediatric endocrinology at Cornell University, and informatics at a combined Harvard University/ Massachusetts Institute of Technology program. Before that he completed a pediatric residency at Duke University. He received his M.D. with distinction and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the American University of Beirut.

About the CoEE Program
The S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002, funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state’s three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence in research areas that will advance South Carolina’s economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds. The program also supports CoEE endowed chairs, world-renowned scientists who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. By investing in talent and technology, the CoEE Program is designed to fuel the state’s knowledge-based economy, resulting in high-paying jobs and an improved standard of living in South Carolina.

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About Health Sciences South Carolina
Established in April 2004, Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) is a statewide public-private collaborative of universities and health systems possessing the shared vision of using health sciences research to improve the health and economic wellbeing of South Carolina. HSSC includes Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina, Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Palmetto Health, and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

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About MUSC
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 11,000 employees, including 1,500 faculty members. As
the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.6 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children’s Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry.

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