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Tiffani J. Bright


Tiffani J. Bright, PhD

Current Affiliation

Director, Informatics Development, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis


BA, Sociology, The College of William and Mary
BS, Information Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
PhD, Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University

How do I describe my work to those outside the field

Informatics is the use of data-centric approaches to solve complex problems in order to enable advances in biomedical research and improvements in the quality of healthcare.

Years of experience:

About 13 years.

Why Informatics? 

It was the result of a series of seemingly disconnected events. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. It wasn’t until I was working on my first internship at the National Institute of Aging. Up to that point I had a set of disparate skills – I was a pharmacy technician, I had a sociology degree from The College of William and Mary and then I was working on my information systems degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). I was committed to completing a PhD degree in a STEM field; that was a requirement of my UMBC scholarship. I could not imagine how all of those pieces of me should ever align into a meaningful career – one that would not require sacrificing some component of my interest.  During one of my lunch breaks, I was doing a random search that somehow led me to the Columbia University’s Department of Biomedical Informatics website. There was a venn diagram that amazingly really resonated with me — people, healthcare, and technology—  with informatics at the intersection!  That was my first introduction to informatics and I didn’t even know how to define it, but I just knew that was the place where I belonged.  So, I emailed Dr. Ted Shortliffe, I introduced myself to him.  I said hi, this is who I am, this is what I’m doing, I’m going to apply and I’m going to go to Columbia. So why informatics?  Because it’s limitless, it’s cross-cutting, and it’s interdisciplinary, which pretty much describes who I am and what I’m all about. Informatics is ever-evolving, and it’s a bridge to many paths.

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

Overall my ambition is to see the pendulum really moving and that the changes I envision in the healthcare delivery system is life changing because of the application of investigators’ research.  I would like to look back and experience a sense of accomplishment from vision to reality as I focus on advanced clinical decision support and its meaningful impact on lives. It would mean a lot to know the research funded has significantly improved the quality of life; not only increasing investigators’ research portfolio, but that the results did have the downstream effect of improvement in delivery and quality of care within our healthcare system.

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

I read the traditional informatics journals. But my colleagues, peers, and mentors are my best resources. I am always both challenged and inspired through personal interactions as well as in more formal educational settings. My mentor, Dr. Sue Bakken, is at the top of my resource list and I can still rely on her to share a wealth of additional relevant resources. She is timeless in her grasp of the field today, and ahead of the times with a deep commitment to where the future in informatics can take those clinicians coming behind her. I stand on her shoulders and am so grateful for all she continues to pour into me; she as an invaluable resource of people and new learning in the field.  And although I wouldn’t say our youth in various STEM programs are for me, key resources, I have to acknowledge that through a great deal of time spent with volunteerism, I can appreciate their curiosities, and perspectives sometimes stimulating my out of the box approaches to problem solving.  I believe that the youth are our future, and I see such potential with 6th through 12th grade STEM students whose way of thinking and approaching problems can be ideal for using future technology to disrupt healthcare and contribute greatly to the field of informatics.  

Articles that spotlight my research interest

Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA

I love arts and crafts – three in particular: scrapbooking, baking, and crocheting. To date, I have a collection of seven scrapbooks covering my College of William and Mary and UMBC years and I’m finally about to start my Columbia books. Although paper scrapbooks are expensive, bulkier, and require more planning, I have a penchant for paper scrapbooks. I also enjoy baking and decorating cakes. I’m known to make some spectacular designs to bring both joy and calories. Lastly, I’m working on my crocheting skills. I’ve joined a life group at my church where we donate our finished products to a local nursing home. Outside of the arts and crafts, I completed my first triathlon a few years ago and recently found a new training partner for next summer. So, I’m excited about the upcoming 2018 triathlon training schedule. 

AMIA is important to me because

To me AMIA is the heart of our field. As members of this professional organization I believe it is all of our responsibility to be engaged members, contributing of ourselves while reaping the tremendous benefits of a viable organization living growing and forever changing to be relevant to meet the needs of our field and the diverse communities we are privileged to serve. For a time, I recall being unsure and quite timid about volunteering within the organization because I felt that I needed to be more established, but I love how there’s a place for everyone to serve in AMIA. I’m thankful that I had the encouragement to move beyond that point because since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to grow professionally, serve, and reap the countless benefits of becoming an “activated” member.  AMIA is a community of professionals committed to set goals, providing opportunities and support for everyone seeking to be engaged.

I am involved with AMIA

Currently I serve on the Board of Directors; also actively involved  with the Women in AMIA committee, and on the Women in AMIA Pipeline subcommittee. I also serve on the Membership and Outreach Committee.  Lastly, I participate in AMIA’s Mentor Match as a mentor and I have two incredible mentees, Paula Buchanan and Andrea Mahnke. 

Why I became involved with Women in AMIA

I’m passionate about diversity and recruitment/outreach activities, so this was a fantastic opportunity. Serving as a member of this taskforce meant that I would be part of shaping a “different tomorrow” for women in informatics looking towards AMIA to advance their careers. But, it also meant that I would be able to contribute to something that would have positive implications for the future women to come.  For example, for the first time, the Women in AMIA committee will be providing scholarship awards to undergraduate women and underrepresented minority women with an interest in informatics and STEM to attend the AMIA 2017 Annual Symposium. The program is called “AMIA First Look.” I had an idea and with the outstanding support of Dr. Wendy Chapman, Jenn Novesky, Kelly Evans, Vicky Tiase, Dr. Allison B. McCoy, the Women in AMIA Committee, AMIA, and our generous corporate sponsors – that’s what is now possible! We are so thrilled about this initiative and the expected outcomes.

It may surprise people to know

I am a roller coaster aficionado. Although, in my mind, it should come as no surprise since I am one who is always looking for different paths to get to a desired ending goal and enjoying the ride with all the ups and downs – forever anticipating with enthusiasm what’s around the next curve and committed to the finish.