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Saif Khairat, PhD

Current Affiliation

Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina School of Nursing, Chapel Hill


PhD, Health Informatics, University of Missouri
MS, Computer Science, University of Missouri
BS, Computer Science, University of Missouri

How do I describe my work to those outside the field

I usually say that my work focuses on the usability of health information technologies to link clinicians and patients to electronic medical records, such as connected health, with a focus on cancer research and critical care settings. If that fails, if I see blank faces, then I just say it is improving healthcare through computers.

Years of experience: 

Since 2006

Why Informatics?

In the past, informatics was a tool in healthcare. Today, healthcare is delivered through informatics. There is quite a difference. Now informatics is a significant component of healthcare delivery. Actually, it’s a cornerstone, and that is attractive to me.

Secondly, on a personal level, coming from a medical family, I was always intrigued by the delivery and execution of care. I grew up following my parents on rounds and roaming through wards, so I always had that passion to be in healthcare. Plus, I also had a deep interest in computers, with a curiosity in optimal use of technology.

But a turning point in my life towards informatics was when my late grandfather was diagnosed with a terminal illness and he experienced a medical error before he passed away. That was the trigger. At that point I decided to pursue my PhD in informatics with a focus on ICU communication and medical errors. That error really hit home. Growing up, I did have interest, but at that point, I thought I really want to make a difference and hope I don’t have to see anyone else go through something like this again.

What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?

I really hope I make a significant contribution to the field of biomedical informatics by creating innovative ways that further streamline healthcare services and improve patient outcomes.  A secondary goal is to bring informatics to the rest of the world, and to help other nations improve their healthcare system. Actually, through AMIA, we are doing this through the Education Working Group.  We are creating an online resource to help inform educators on key informatics concepts, we expect this to be available to people in and outside the U.S.

Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?

Usually it’s through JAMIA and the AMIA meetings and the Annual Symposium. Those are my two biggest sources of information. I also subscribe to other HIT newsletters that keep me up to date.

Articles that spotlight my research interest

Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA

I’m an athlete and a traveller. In my rare free time, I’m either playing soccer or squash, or I try to get on a plane and check out somewhere new.

AMIA is important to me because

I feel like I’m a product of AMIA just because I’ve been involved with AMIA for about a third of my life, almost 10 years. But also, with AMIA I have had the pleasure of meeting, and working with, and also being mentored by world renowned experts such as Dr. Charles Safran, Dr. Connie Delaney, Dr. Lael Gatewood. The list goes on. So I have this amazing opportunity to work with some of the leaders in the field.

Also, AMIA provides me with a continuing interest in resources, such as the latest scientific findings and research, and networking venues. I have a sense of strong belonging to AMIA. I’ve been part of other professional organizations, but AMIA is the premier informatics association, for two main reasons: for its professionalism and its collaborative nature.

I am involved with AMIA

Since 2006, that’s when I started being an AMIA member, and I had no idea what AMIA was, but my Master’s advisor at the time, Dr. Chi-Ren Shyu, signed me up for AMIA, and even paid my dues. Now, I’m an active AMIA member, chair of the Education Working Group, member of the Working Group Steering Committee, and I am member of the Scientific Program Committee at the Academic Forum. During my student years, I served on other committees in the Student Working Group, and I am eager to do more in the future.

It may surprise people to know

That I enunciate my name to others by saying it’s like “safe, as in not dangerous”, which works well given my work in patient safety.