Homayouni builds new division as founding director of Population Health Informatics

Ramin Homayouni, Ph.D., has always enjoyed solving puzzles.

Today’s brainteasers aren’t anything like those he solved for fun as a child, though. Homayouni solves scientific puzzles now. They are perhaps the one constant in a career that the new founding director of OUWB’s Population Health Informatics Division describes as “multi-faceted.”

“If you asked me 15 years ago if I’d be heading a program like this, I would have been surprised and said, ‘No!,’ but looking back now, I can see that there’s a natural evolution. This is where I want and need to be now,” he says.

His career evolved from the basic sciences, including biochemistry, neurobiology, and genomics to clinical informatics and artificial intelligence. In addition, Homayouni developed text analytics technology to support his research; it became the foundation of a company he co-founded, Quire Inc. The business uses natural language processing of electronic medical records to anticipate and improve patient needs and outcomes.

Built Bioinformatics Program at University of Memphis

Homayouni comes to OUWB from the University of Memphis, where he founded and directed the Bioinformatics Program.

“What I will do here at OUWB to create the Division of Population Health Informatics will be very similar to what I did in Memphis,” says Homayouni, who started at OUWB on December 1, 2018. Population health informatics, he explains, uses technology to improve population health outcomes by implementing evidence-based solutions.

His assignment includes building a research program from scratch. To do that, he is focusing on three areas:
Creating a graduate program, beginning with a graduate certificate in population health informatics.
Developing research capacity, starting with his personal project. Colleagues from the University of Memphis will relocate to OU to continue their research with him.
Building bridges between OUWB and Beaumont Health so that the new division’s research supports the health system’s mission and specific needs. He attends grand rounds weekly to learn more.

Collaborating with Beaumont Health

It’s that third piece that has him most excited.

“I’ve done the first two already,” he explains. “Everybody’s talking about artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, but we still have to connect what we learn with clinicians. OU’s partnership with Beaumont will let us do that.”

The department will work collaboratively with the health system’s clinicians to identify “hot spots” that need attention.

“From there, we’ll look at whether we can deploy existing tools, or if we need to develop them in-house,” Homayouni says.

“Our plan is to develop a nationally recognized, externally funded program that addresses factors adversely affecting the health of our partnering communities, such as demographic, social, behavioral, and economic issues, while also advancing the ability of our health system to improve health outcomes,” adds Richard Kennedy, Ph.D., OUWB associate dean of Research.

While Homayouni’s wife and two children finish up the school year in Memphis, he will put together the pieces of his new puzzle, OUWB’s Division of Population Health Informatics.