From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere

admin Our Thots

(with thanks to Dr. Suess)

My name is Monica Horvath, and I joined ThotWave with the New Year as the Health Analytics Lead.  I arrive with 8 years’ experience from Duke Medicine, a world-class academic health system located in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. I served most recently as the Team Lead for Health Intelligence and Research Services.  Under the direction of the CIO and CAO (Chief Analytics Officer), my team designed analytics projects in support of Duke’s mission in patient care, education, and research.

In that role I was involved in the conception and deployment of Duke MAESTRO Care(Duke’s implementation of Epic, an enterprise electronic health record (EHR) ), and led the Health Intelligence team to drive the analytics strategy to evaluate the impact of this transformational, and disruptive, effort to digitize all patient care information within a single, enterprise system.

So what does that mean for you and why should you care?  I have seen firsthand how fear, frustration, and fascination (next blog post) can each be responses that both advance and retard the journey to become a data-aware learning health system. I am also, more generally, a well-published health services researcher with a solid track record in health IT evaluation.  Duke was an amazingly supportive organization in allowing me to publish and grow a Research Services team, based out of the School of Medicine, which cross-pollinated and grounded the business analytics effort in research-caliber practices.  In developing tactics and strategies and learning from those experiences, I have a unique background with which to help other care organizations develop an analytics mindset.

Shaping the development of the right analytics skillset for data scientists is another way in which I will serve the healthcare community as a member of ThotWave.  Upon receiving my PhD degree (Computational Biology specialty, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) as a member of the Harold ‘Skip’ Garner lab, I had an epiphany.  My most valuable competency is the ability to learn and to creatively problem solve—and of course the best demonstration of having learned a skill is to teach it to others, which I have done and will continue to do to help further the ThotWave mission.

PhD programs in the basic sciences don’t have a finite timeline.  You exit with a degree when you have made a contribution to science that is vetted with grant funding and peer reviewed research.  It’s akin to being dropped in the middle of a remote forest with modest camping equipment and being told ‘Good luck! See you when find your way out!’ (you get some advice, too, along the way).  No methodology to address your research question is a priori  ‘out of scope’ or ‘not in your field’.  You do whatever is necessary to learn how to accomplish your goal.  Some of us make it out of that forest, and in doing so, we have proven ourselves as lifelong learners and problem solvers.

In fact, if the Zombie apocalypse ever does come to pass, you may want a multidisciplinary PhD or two in your apocalypse bunker.  (I would actually head south to the Emory University area and join forces with another Garner Lab graduate —he can rig-up just about anything).

At ThotWave, I look forward to developing the next generation of health data scientists to hike through their metaphorical forests.  Healthcare is by definition multidisciplinary, so the most important single attribute to have (or develop) in a successful analytics professional is not exceptional statistical programing skills or detailed business knowledge—but curiosity.  I am reminded of Duke University alumni Roy Underhill —host of The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS (still filmed here in NC!)—who cleverly noted that “curiosity is the ultimate power tool.”

I hope you will follow my blog in the coming months, as I am delighted to be here with ThotWave and look forward to the coming year.  And if you see any Zombies, give us a call.  We may have a few ideas.