Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the graduate certificate program will launch in Winter 2012 and the master’s program is scheduled to begin in Winter 2013.

Amid rising healthcare costs and an industry constantly afflicted by turmoil, the University is maintaining its position as a frontrunner in the health field with the official creation of a new master’s program in Health Informatics, following over three years of planning.

Meghan Genovese, Health Informatics program manager, said the University will join a small group of schools around the nation that offer this type of degree program, which will be run by both the School of Information and the School of Public Health.

Additionally a graduate certificate program will be available for the Fall 2011 term and the 52-credit Master’s Program for the Fall 2012 term, she said.

Charles Friedman is stepping down from his position as chief scientific officer of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to head the new program.

Friedman first came to the University four years ago to speak about the benefits of developing a Health Informatics program, and has worked throughout most of his professional career to promote health IT nationally, according to the ONC website. In the academic world, Friedman has taught and held numerous titles at both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina

In the health informatics field, Friedman said “the breadth of potential careers is really quite impressive” and that the Health Information Technologies Industry is “rapidly expanding.”

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information, said in addition to being one of the few in the country, the new program is “really quite novel.”

“Most (Health Informatics programs) are focused on clinical health records,” MacKie-Mason said.“We’re focusing first and foremost on consumer health, on individuals taking care of themselves and dealing with their health conditions outside of the hospital … and public health.”

Martin Philbert, dean of the School of Public Health, called the program “a fabulous, exciting, and unique partnership between the School of Information and the School of Public Health.”

“I am delighted that Chuck Friedman will be joining our health management college faculty,” Philbert said. “He’s extraordinarily well thought of … he brings us immediate national and international credibility and visibility.”

Philbert said that upon completing the program — which also includes an internship feature — graduates will likely find success in attaining jobs, citing a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study that predicted an 18-percent growth for employment in the field of Health Informatics.

Specifically, Friedman listed public health agencies in local, state and national government and consulting firms within the expanding health informatics field as potential job sites for graduates of the program.

In addition to the program, graduates will also be the benefactors of the reputations of the School of Information and the School of Public Health according to MacKie-Mason, who identified both schools as falling within the top three of their respective fields nationally.

Genovese said that with the degree, students could potentially become involved with projects like personal health management, where they would develop programs that track the progress of a patient’s diet and exercise online.

Friedman echoed Genovese’s sentiments, saying that students will be able to embark on projects that will help them develop skills and “build technological tools” that will help them become practitioners or assist at agencies in the health care field.

As of yet, there are no specific numbers in regards to the expected number of students in the program, though Friedman said he does not expect the growing industry to disappear anytime soon.

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