While most people are aware of the importance of informatics in healthcare and lab medicine, the pathway to becoming a local leader in informatics is pretty murky. And within the lab medicine community, the topics and activities included under the term “informatics” is not well defined.

Darci Block, PhD, moderates the session titled “Informatics and the Clinical Chemist: Exploring the Role and Scope for Training and Careers,” that takes attendees through the different formal and informal educational opportunities that laboratorians can access to become local informatics experts. In addition to two expert speakers, this session features a live Q&A with the presenter panel on Monday, December 14 at 11:00 am Central.

Block’s journey into informatics began with a multi-year electronic health record project at Mayo Laboratories. Based on that experience, her ability in the area was recognized and she was promoted to vice chair of informatics. In her view, the field of lab medicine informatics has not yet been strictly defined, and laboratorians can fill many different informatics-related roles. Like many working at the intersection of clinical labs and informatics, Block throughout her career gained the bulk of her informatics knowledge through hands-on learning.

Given the large amount of data that clinical laboratories produce and how many more organizations are implementing comprehensive electronic medical records, laboratorians contributing to the informatics efforts at their institutions can be very important. As such, laboratorians in different roles and at various stages of their careers have pursued both formal and informal education in basic informatics concepts and programs.

In particular, R enjoys significant popularity within lab medicine, with many short courses and webinars offered by professional societies. Reflecting the widespread interest in laboratory informatics, these courses represent only a fraction of the many available programming language learning opportunities.

For current MD or PhD trainees looking to pursue informatics training, Ronald Jackups, MD, PhD, discusses options to gain that experience during residencies or fellowships. Many pathology departments have incorporated informatics training, either compulsory or optional, into their residency programs, but non-MD clinical personnel have fewer options for similar training tracks. Currently, only MDs can qualify for the American Board of Pathologists certification, providing a formal path for such trainees. For PhD-holding trainees, the options are more varied, with no current option for a board certification.

S. Wesley Long, MD, PhD, discusses informatics opportunities for clinical chemists. Simply finding and identifying the available learning opportunities can be daunting and laboratorians will benefit from expert perspective to help them find the right experience for their needs. For technologists working at the bench, a common first step into informatics has been becoming a liaison with the institutional IT team, followed by advancing to projects using their laboratory information system.

In the near future, successful laboratorians will need a working knowledge of basic informatics. Some laboratorians might pursue intensive hands-on experience with or without additional formal training, enabling them to bridge the gap between pure informaticians and clinical lab personnel. Attendees of this session will learn the landscape of available education and training opportunities in informatics and gain the tools necessary to navigate a path through this terrain.