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Hey Alexa, why do we need another dean?

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Dear Colleagues,

You may have read the recent announcement about our new CIO and executive associate dean. And you may have wondered why the school needs another top administrator on the sixth floor of Fairbanks Hall.

It’s a good question. In short, we can’t afford not to have someone in this role.

It is no secret that technology is changing the way we do everything, from how we shop and consume news to how we interact with one another. And medicine and higher education are no exceptions. If we want to be a great medical school, we need to harness the power of technology and big data. In fact, this is so critical that we made it a priority of our new strategic plan to “establish IU School of Medicine as a national leader in the innovative use of information technology.”

I want to take this opportunity to share a little about our vision for information technology and how we intend to improve support for our faculty, staff and learners.

We are a nine-campus medical school, and we need to be able to communicate seamlessly across all campuses. That includes high-fidelity video conferencing that works every time without glitches. This is especially important for medical education, because we must ensure students have access to and can learn from our best teachers, regardless of where they are physically located. Our new CIO will be charged with helping to upgrade our infrastructure so we’re better connected.

What if we could do a better job using data throughout the course of a student’s education to help maximize his or her success?

At Georgia State, a national leader in the application of predictive analytics for higher education, computers continuously comb through the records of 30,000 students looking for more than 800 risk factors. When one is found, it triggers an alarm that sets in motion a one-on-one meeting between the student and an adviser and, when appropriate, a customized intervention. As a result, the university has seen its four-year graduation rate improve by six percentage points, among other significant gains.

Imagine if we could implement a similar system so we could help struggling students course correct early enough to ensure they remain on track to graduate and match into residency? Or if we could better counsel students about their competitiveness for different residencies or research funding opportunities?

As a medical school, our goal is to improve health in Indiana and beyond through excellence in education, research and clinical care. To do this well we need to be able to measure critical outcomes. We sit on mounds of data, but it is often challenging to agree on which data to focus and to translate this information into action. By improving our collection, storage and analysis of data, we can determine if we are making headway against our own goals and determine how we stack up against medical schools across the country.

When I was growing up, the only way to get cash was to stand in line inside a bank. Then came ATMs, followed by credit cards that could be used at point-of-purchase. Today we are increasingly ordering online and abandoning traditional brick and mortar shopping. Health care is going through a comparable transformation.

While we cannot predict exactly how technology will change medical education, research and care, we want to be prepared to lead the way. We will soon begin implementing point-of-care ultrasound training into our curriculum, but we know this is just one of many advances that will change the way physicians practice.

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Whether it is artificial intelligence, augmented reality or some other development we cannot yet envision, IU School of Medicine needs the expertise, infrastructure and commitment to continuously innovate if we are going to be at the front of the pack…and we need to act now.

So why does IU School of Medicine need a new dean dedicated to information technology? Because, in many ways, our future depends on it.


Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA
Executive Vice President for University Clinical Affairs
Dean of the School of Medicine
Indiana University

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA

Executive Vice President for University Clinical Affairs

Jay L. Hess MD, PhD, MHSA became Dean of the School of Medicine and Executive Vice President for University Clinical Affairs at Indiana University in September 2013. Read his full bio.