Peter L. Elkin, MD.

Peter L. Elkin, MD, emerged as the top candidate following an international search.

Biomedical Informatics Expert to Chair New UB Department

Published May 24, 2013

Story by Suzanne Kashuba

Peter L. Elkin, MD, has been appointed professor and founding chair of the University at Buffalo’s new Department of Biomedical Informatics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“[Elkin] possesses all the skills needed to create a strong foundation for the new department in service to UB 2020’s strategic goals.”
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

He will begin his new role this summer.

Top Candidate To Lead New Education, Research Focus

“Following a comprehensive international search, Dr. Elkin rapidly emerged as our top candidate,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school.

“He possesses all the skills needed to create a strong foundation for the new department in service to UB 2020’s strategic goals.”

The global leader in biomedical informatics will develop undergraduate and graduate programs, mentored research and training programs and a robust research enterprise at UB, says Cain.

Expert Devised Transforming Systems

Elkin is renowned for building biomedical common-data-infrastructure systems and protocols that have transformed research and clinical care. He has created and implemented bioinformatics standards for exchanging and storing data.

In addition, Elkin has pioneered the development of core methods for standardizing medical record data that can link patient records to genomic, diagnostic and treatment information.

One of his best-known advances has involved developing methods for fully automated electronic quality monitoring, aimed at improving the quality and safety of clinical care.

Elkin’s work has employed natural language processing to read and understand text that health care providers dictate or type into a computer, turning free text into computable, ontological knowledge.

He also has developed a medical search algorithm and many other tools to support translational research and the management of biomedical data.

Experience Leading Biomedical Informatics

Elkin was formerly vice president and professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, where he also directed the Center for Biomedical Informatics.

During his tenure, he was involved at the executive level with implementing Epic electronic health record software for both outpatient and in-patient environments.

He also created a common-data infrastructure for the secondary use of clinical data.

‘Explosive Growth’ Spurs New Department

“Biomedical informatics is now essential to the delivery of health care," says Cain. “Explosive growth in the field over the past decade spurred creation of our new department.”

The interdisciplinary field makes use of biomedical data—particularly clinical and genomic data, information and knowledge—for scientific inquiry, problem-solving, decision making and communication.

Department Will Foster Translational Medicine

Under Elkin’s leadership, the department will advance translational medicine by providing the data infrastructure needed to perform translational and clinical genomic research more efficiently.

This will position UB to more rapidly advance the scientific understanding of biomedicine, and more rapidly translate that knowledge into new, safe and effective treatments for patients.

“Our new department will play a critical role in UB’s increased emphasis on translational medicine and will help strengthen the university’s application for the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award program,” says Cain.

Eklin’s major research interests include clinical genomic and translational informatics, controlled health vocabularies, knowledge representation, natural language processing, ontologies, information retrieval, human factors engineering, clinical decision support systems and electronic medical records.

New Chair Holds Numerous Awards and Honors

Among numerous honors, the department's incoming chair has been elected to Mastership by the American College of Physicians, a distinction shared by only a small number of physicians worldwide.

He joins the ranks of past UB honorees such as Evan Calkins, MD; James P. Nolan, MD; and Edward Stehlik, MD.

Elkin's other honors include:

  • Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and the American College of Medical Informatics
  • Homer R. Warner Award for outstanding contributions to medical informatics
  • first international Master of the Danish Society of Medical Informatics
  • Mayo Department of Medicine Laureate Award for dedication to patient care, educational excellence and high standards of personal integrity

Career Path: from Harvard to Mayo to UB

Earlier in his career, Elkin rose to the rank of professor at the Mayo Medical School’s Department of Medicine, where he held an academic appointment in medical informatics.

He previously completed a NIH-sponsored fellowship in medical informatics at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and at Harvard Medical School, in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health.

Elkin trained in internal medicine at the Lahey Clinic near Boston and was a clinical fellow in medicine at the MGH.

He earned his medical degree at New York Medical College and his undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and physics at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.