Data can reveal trends and relationships hidden from everyday observations. It can overturn assumptions and beliefs, directing future choices and actions. The internet has normalized data collection and data-informed decision making. From Instagram advertisements to Netflix recommendations, data collection and analysis has shaped our everyday lives; it is also shaping healthcare.
As patient data becomes more widely collected and accessible to the health care team, patient care is becoming more and more individualized. Data based care can improve health outcomes, predicting risk factors and helping identify preventative measures for patients.
In pharmacy, the field of pharmacogenomics considers individuals’ genes in their response to medication. With data on specific genetic sequences, pharmaceutical companies are able to develop drugs to benefit people with genetic variations, who otherwise suffer from harmful side effects. So far, identified beneficiaries of pharmacogenomics include patients with some types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, depression and more. To those interested in developing drugs for these patients with specific sequences, check out UNE’s specialty track in Health Data Analytics.
Dr. Chunhao Tu, Statistician and Associate Professor, shares about the Health Data Analytics track in pharmacy at UNE.
What does the intersection of pharmacy and Health Data Analytics look like? How do you think the field of pharmacy is being shaped by data?
Nowadays, Precision Medicine (PM) is rapidly becoming the mainstream medical model for curing various diseases. It customizes individuals’ treatment plan as opposed to the “one-drug-fits-all” model. One of the main intersections between pharmacy and Health Data Analytics (HDA) is in “pharmacogenomics.” This is because HDA deals with large amounts of human genomics data to develop an effective medicine for an individual. The HDA track is also an essential skill for drug development nowadays in big pharmaceutical companies. The COVID-19 vaccine is an example of the work being done by pharmaceutical companies.
What opportunities does someone have after specializing in Health Data Analytics?
For someone who specializes in HDA, s/he can find lots of job opportunities in health insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms (beyond being a retail pharmacist or hospital pharmacist). Students will gain very unique skill sets (programming, analytics, etc) which are in very high demand right now.
Why would someone pursue a Pharm.D. with a specialty in Health Data Analytics instead of going to school for data science?
A student who has PharmD with a specialty in HDA is much more competitive than a person who has only a data science degree, especially for a person who wants to have a job in health fields (health insurance, pharmaceutical companies, cancer research centers, etc). A PharmD gives a student understanding of the professional medical terms, clinical setting, pharmacy therapies, etc.; whereas, a data science student will not have this specific training.