Spotlight on Jomol Mathew: New SMPH Chief of Biomedical Informatics

When Jomol Mathew was recruited in early 2020 to serve as the first Chief of Biomedical Informatics for SMPH, she looked forward to the opportunity to develop and guide the research and strategy for the school’s work in biomedical informatics, predictive analytics, precision medicine, and translational research. Part of her broad charge included leading the SMPH Clinical and Health Informatics Institute (CHI2), which is housed within ICTR, and guiding CHI2 on a path to realizing its three-fold mission of research, service, and education.

Jomol Mathew, PhDHer strong background in program building from her tenure at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, including important roles as Chief Research Informatics Officer, Associate Chief Information Officer and Head of Research Technologies and Data Sciences, made her an excellent fit for leading initiatives planned at SMPH. Her new colleagues at ICTR and across SMPH excitedly awaited her arrival.

Instead of a smooth onsite arrival, when Dr. Mathew started on April 1, non-essential in person activities were closed at UW-Madison and the focus of biomedical informatics and the clinical research enterprise at UW had pivoted to the fight against COVID-19. Despite the challenging circumstances, she dug right in.

Creating the COVID-19, Respiratory Disease and Critical Illness Registry

Almost immediately, Dr Mathew, in collaboration with Dr Nasia Safdar, began her work at UW SMPH by organizing a local work group that would ultimately develop the COVID-19, Respiratory Disease and Critical Illness Registry.

The main goals of the UW-Health-based registry are to enable comparative effectiveness and outcome studies, assess and predict treatment responsiveness, and match patients to emerging clinical trials. Additionally, the registry can be linked to the biobank so that researchers can obtain clinically annotated biological specimens for research. Dr. Mathew comments,

I was fortunate to work on the registry with an extremely talented group of clinicians and health services researchers from UW and UW Health. We met on a daily basis for almost a month to iron out the information needed from our EHR records to develop an instrument that would support clinical decision making. Together we refined the list of clinical parameters needed to inform an effective instrument for our clinical researchers.

The list of collaborators on this project is highly interdisciplinary including Nasia Safdar (Medical Director of Infection Control at UW Hospital and Clinics; UW Department of Medicine (DOM) Faculty), Hillary Faust (Pulmonary and Critical Care Faculty, DOM), Brian Patterson (Physician Informatics Director for Predictive Analytics, UW Health; Emergency Medicine Faculty), Mike Pulia (Director, Emergency Medicine Antimicrobial Stewardship Program; Emergency Medicine Faculty), Gabe McMahan (Clinical Research Data Service-CRDS) and Yonghe Yan (CRDS), Amy Kind (Director of the Health Services and Care Research Program, DOM), Christie Bartels (Rheumatology Faculty, DOM), and William Buckingham (Health Geographer, DOM).

Allan Brasier, ICTR Executive Director, notes

We are very pleased to have Dr. Mathew on board as our first Chief of Biomedical Informatics at SMPH. The expertise and energy she brings to everything she does allows her to connect with people and make an immediate impact. This has been a very important contributor to our local response to the international efforts to combat COVID-19.

The Registry project gave rise to a dashboard, in collaboration with UW Health Information Services, to support clinical decision making. Housed by UW Health, it is operational for clinical care providers with prior approval.

If you would like access to the dashboard as a clinical provider or data as a clinical researcher, please submit a request through the Clinical and Health Informatics Institute consult form and staff will work with you to obtain the proper permissions.

UW-Madison Joins National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C)

An equally urgent priority for Dr. Mathew as she navigated her first weeks at UW was to negotiate the entry of UW into a broad consortium of other Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) sites, who were engaged in developing a program to enlist informatics in the fight against coronavirus. She recalls,

By mid-May, UW-Madison joined 14 other NIH-funded CTSA centers to create N3C, a repository of data from electronic health records of COVID-19 patients. By harnessing big data on a national platform, N3C will support investigators in identifying the best treatments and the strongest predictive analytical tools to speed research and ultimately lessen the impact of the pandemic.

At UW, this involved identifying COVID-19 patients and the required EHR data and how to format that data for the N3C repository. Dr Mathew worked with Nichelle Cobb, ICTR Human Subjects Protections Officer, and Thomas Callaci, SMPH Honest Broker, to finalize a required data use agreement and to leverage the SMART IRB agreement, which allowed UW-Madison to cede IRB review to the IRB at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. After that, she oversaw the work of the Clinical Research Data Service team to provide the data to N3C.

In September, Drs Mathew and Elizabeth Burnside received an award from NIH to partner with N3C, the American College of Radiology, and Marshfield Clinic to enhance real-time submission of clinical and imaging data to the nascent repository.  Read more.

The National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) is supported as part of a $25 million NIH award to the National Center for Data to Health, which is coordinating the collaborative’s efforts and is based at Oregon Health & Science University’s Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute. The NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is providing overall stewardship of the Collaborative.

Read more about the recruitment of Jomol Mathew and her recent work with the UW Carbone Cancer Center.