Laura Wiley, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado
BS, Molecular Biology, University of Denver
BSCh, Chemistry, University of Denver
MS, Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University
PhD, Human Genetics, Vanderbilt University
How do I describe my work to those outside the field
I explain that informaticians try to take data, from genetics to the gobbledygook in your medical records, and turn that into knowledge that we can use to improve your health and healthcare. Essentially how we can use everything that’s happened in medicine to help make better decisions for future care.
Years of experience:
About six years.
My dad, and all the patients like him. When I was a senior in high school (circa 2005) my Dad became suddenly, mysteriously ill. For weeks no one knew what was wrong or how to treat him. It wasn’t until he found the website called “Ask a Patient” and found a group of patients with the same constellation of symptoms, did we have a potential explanation. He stopped this drug against medical advice and was on the road to recovery in just over a week. The trauma faded, I moved on with my education, and it wasn’t until my first year of graduate school that the impact of this event became clear. Our class read a paper on the discovery of a genetic variant that predicted my Dad’s exact reaction. Not only did I have a biological reason for his illness, but I also learned that Vanderbilt was in the process of using this variant clinically to protect future patients from the same reaction. I was hooked, from translational bioinformatics (finding the genetic variant behind his reaction) and clinical informatics (enabling the clinical decision support to help doctors protect future patients) to even consumer health informatics (the website that helped him identify his reaction) – these informatics disciplines worked together to protect future patients from getting harmed by a drug meant to help. This promise to patients is why I get up every day and am proud to be an informatician.
What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?
My mission is to get pharmacogenomics and related technologies into routine use in the clinic. As a biologist and chemist, it is clear that genetics (writ large) impact drug metabolism and efficacy. As a patient, I want evidence to help support and explain my lived reality. As an informatician, I know that this can’t be accomplished without technology to help support our clinicians make use of ever increasing amounts of data to make the best care decisions with their patients. At the end of the day, the patient is at the center of what I do and I want to enable a future where the right treatment for the right patient accomplishing the patient’s goals with the least harm is routine.
Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?
My fellow AMIA members. Although I’m just entering the field as a professional rather than a student, I have been fortunate to have an extensive network in the organization. From floating random ideas to getting advice to solve specific problems, the people I have met through AMIA have all been fantastic frolleagues (friends and colleagues).
Articles that spotlight my research interest
- Dunnenberger HM, Crews KR, Hoffman JM, et al. Preemptive clinical pharmacogenetics implementation: current programs in five US medical centers. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2015;55:89-106. PMID: 25292429
- Wilke RA, Xu H, Denny JC, et al. The emerging role of electronic medical records in pharmacogenomics. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2011;89(3):379-86. PMID: 21248726
- Pathak J, Kho AN, Denny JC. Electronic health records-driven phenotyping: challenges, recent advances, and perspectives. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2013;20(e2):e206-11. PMID: 24302669
Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA
Wait, there’s a world outside of informatics? Just kidding. I ride horses and bake a lot of cupcakes. My Momma always taught me it’s good to have a back-up career just in case – and everyone loves a sweet treat now and again!
AMIA is important to me because
It is my home. Professionally and personally, AMIA is the first place where I feel like I truly belong. Although informatics is a diverse field, our thought process and how we solve problems are similar and we all want to enable a brighter future for patients, clinicians and scientists.
I am involved with AMIA
In many roles. I am currently the Chair of the Working Group Steering Committee, and the elected student representative to the Board of Directors – both ex-officio roles on the BOD. I am also past-Chair of the Student Working Group, and a former member of the Public Policy Committee.
It may surprise people to know
I am a former musician/singer. For most of my youth, I was part of a chorus that travelled the world singing in competitions in Europe, at peace conferences in Hiroshima Japan, and even at Carnegie Hall!