Forum:Can anyone with clinical experience tell me how to get involved in medical informatics?
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9.6 years ago
Dan D 7.4k

I have masters degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Systems Engineering. I have four years of experience working with NGS data and technologies in the research arena. I've written lots of tools and worked on many different analysis projects, so I feel like I have a good knowledge basis. I have abundant experience writing software and using a wide variety of software tools in the genomics field.

I've decided, after a lot of thought, that I want to contribute more to the clinical side of things. I would love to work closely with doctors to solve questions about disorders or diseases with a putative detectable genetic basis. However, after some research I'm not sure what the best path forward is from here.

Some basic questions that I would love to have input on:

-With my current education and experience, what education/certifications do I need to pursue to make myself qualified to work in a hospital/diagnostic setting?

-Any suggestions on finding a mentor?

-Any perspective on the current state of the field, such as what direction it's heading and possible near-future emerging requirements?

If it's relevant to the discussion, I'm currently a US citizen and would like to stay here for the foreseeable future.

clincal-informatics • 5.1k views
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Thanks for the input so far, Garan and Dan. It's been very helpful.

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9.6 years ago
Garan ▴ 690

I'm not entirely sure what the situation is regarding Clinical Bioinformatics in the US - and I know you specified that you're a US citizen and would like to stay in the US for now - but here's an outline of how things are developing in the UK within the NHS.

In the UK there is a new Scientist Training Programme (STP) in Clinical Bioinformatics with a sub-speciality in Genomics (http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/healthcare-science/careers-in-healthcare-science/careers-in-bioinformatics/bioinformatics-%28genomics%29/), which is 3 years in length and incorporates an MSc. At the end of which the trainees currently have to submit their training portfoilo for accreditation as a Clinical Scientist. You can find last years curriculum here (http://www.networks.nhs.uk/nhs-networks/msc-framework-curricula/documents/STP%20MSc%20Clinical%20Bioinformatics%20-Genomics-%20Final%20Version%201%200%20for%202013%2014.pdf/view?searchterm=clinical%20bioinformatics)

There isn't currently an equivalence process for already qualified applicants to go straight to Clinical Scientist level although the relevant bodies have said that they will put this in place. Most of the current bioinformaticians already in place while the new specialists are trained up have PhDs, although there are exceptions :)

As a registered Clinical Scientist (Bioinformatics) in the UK working in a molecular genetics lab you would probably be involved in various sequencing projects ranging from targeted NGS panels to Whole Exome and Whole Genome studies. I gather that one of the drivers behind the training scheme is the Genomics England 100,000 genomes project and so there should be further investment in the speciality.

The NHS labs work closely with their local universities and generally have the possibility of research projects at the Clinical Scientist level usually based on the speciality of the lab (monogenic diseases, cancer etc.).

Your experience and qualifications sound similar to my own when I was first employed although as time goes on I can see most of these posts going the same way as the Clinical Scientist posts in Genetics - where you either have to go through the training scheme (now 3 years instead of 6) or try for equivalence (the only people I know who did this all had PhDs and postdoctoral experience in human genetics).

I'd be very interested to hear how things are developing in the US especially as there seems to be alot of opportunities. Sorry this is all UK specific but I hope it gives you some ideas.

Edit:: Did some reading around on your Biostars comments and you certainly have enough experience in the right areas to go straight for an existing Band 7 Bioinformatician post in the NHS labs, however the 8a posts I've seen advertised keep asking for a PhD (generally managing a service) - although this is my observations as an applicant not as an employer.

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Hi Garan, this is a nice post and I was reading the link you sent. I am a doctor "DDS" (dental doctor surgeon) and I have a background in software development too and bioinformatics specialist. This is the question of my professional life : " How to connect all that we know, all that we have in bioinformatics field, with doctor's practical life. Not only doctors, but all the health professional staff. That means, how to use bioinformatics outside academy. My personal point of view: those who makes diagnostics and treatments must to know more about bioinformatics field. I think it will be hard for informaticians to show the way to the doctors because theirs mind must to think as a doctor. We have a problem here. The informatician know how to do, but don't know what to do. In the other hand, the doctors know what to do, but they don't know how to do, or worse, what could be done (all possibilities). Possibilities could lead to a different solutions. It is not so easy to find a solution to this situation. It is not so easy as a doctor that could hire someone from informatics field to create things. It is not so easy as to put all professional together and wait new ideas. I feel that we will still have a barrier.

I didn't know that England took decision in this direction. I will apply for this position. Thanks

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9.6 years ago
DG 7.3k

Right now in North America I don't think there are any specific certifications for clinical work in Bioinformatics. At least every job posting I see in a clinical setting doesn't require any, and I have been involved in creating such a position at a hospital in Canada and no certifications were required for this. Of course having clinical certs in say medical genetics wouldn't hurt and may up your value quite a bit.

The best way to get involved is to start searching through job boards. Most positions within clinical bioinformatics right now are either as part of research groups where a hospital and university have close affiliation or the hospital's department that handles DNA diagnostics is advertising for positions and hiring clinical bioinformaticians directly.

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