Academic excellence and student success is viewed as the number one core value that universities must uphold, this according to the latest Connected Student Report 2022. The report also highlights the importance of universities providing career guidance, flexible learning options, better technology and digital enabled IT services.
Additional research on the seven trends shaping digital transformation in 2023 highlights the growing importance of CIOs and IT departments in terms of delivering value at the speed of stakeholder needs. Investments in hyper automation, composable architectures that drive innovation agility, adoption of low-code/no-code tools, advocacy and development of for total experience strategies, improved data-driven decision intelligence and cybersecurity defenses are all key priorities. In addition, sustainability will continue to drive IT investments.
I recently published the 20 IT trends that CIOs must be aware of and plan for in 2023. The trends were based on a survey of 1,000 IT senior leaders and CIOs. The two two trends involved employee and customer experiences becoming increasingly important, and success relying more on technology enabled experiences. Four out of five of CIOs agree that improved customer-facing and employee technologies are critical for their organization to compete.
To learn more about IT and innovation trends for 2023 and beyond, I connected with an award winning Boston based CIO, responsible for delivery technology services to one of the most innovative academic health science universities in the country.
Greg Wolf is the chief information officer at UMass Chan Medical School and the Boston CIO of the Year award recipient. Awards were presented in eight categories during a virtual ceremony on June 18; Wolf received the ORBIE in the health care category.
Wolf oversees a team of more than 200 people who work in productivity services, academic technology, research technology, information security, operations and engineering. Wolf is a seasoned IT executive, passionate about the role of technology in improving our world. He devotes his considerable energies transforming technology teams from back office service providers to innovative partners within an organization.
Q: Can you tell us more about UMass Chan Medical School?
A: Academic health science universities are the heart of medical innovation in the United States. They provide the rich ecosystem required to advance our understanding of diseases and develop novel therapies. Pharmaceutical and biotech too often prioritize profitable therapies at the expense of advancing fundamental health care sectors such as vaccine development and health equity.
The road from disease classification to therapy winds through numerous scientific and medical fields including basic research, clinical and translational science, diagnostics, informatics, clinical trials, manufacturing and patient care. UMass Chan Medical School, located in Worcester, Mass. is a leader in each of these fields. Our ecosystem of students, researchers, clinicians, population health professionals and even manufacturers of cutting-edge therapeutics efficiently translate funding into novel therapies, patient care advancements and equitable healthcare. UMass Chan is a world leader in RNA therapeutics, including the discovery of the first known microRNA, the Nobel prize awarded research in RNA interference, and leadership in the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines. UMass Chan is also leading the fight against ALS and the scourge of cancer.
Q: What are the IT challenges and opportunities that you and your team manage?
A: My Information Technology team manages the technical underpinnings that supports UMass Chan’s rich ecosystem. We rise each day to face three challenges:
- Continually improve IT infrastructure to meet the needs of biomedical sciences
- Enable secure data management and sharing
- Foster efficient markets for scientific outputs.
On the infrastructure front, we have invested an enormous amount of money over the past decade. A new high performance compute cluster runs tens of millions of jobs per year. Petabytes of lightning-fast (yet remarkably affordable) storage enables the rapid sharing of information and scientific data. Campus-wide WiFi 6 coverage, high-speed cloud interconnects combined with state-of-the-art informatics and visualization tools position our researchers to analyze huge data sets.
Q: How important is data and data management with regards to your digital transformation efforts?
A: The data management environment at UMass Chan is second to none. We have developed an integrated translational science framework that allows our researchers to utilize critical patient data in their research. This advanced framework enabled UMass Chan to participate and advance several major COVID-19 therapy trials since 2020.
Our electronic health system, clinical trials management system, electronic Institutional Review Board, grants & contract management system and data lake are integrated. Strong ties with our clinical partners allow us to expand the types of patient datasets we analyze including data from medical wearables. A recent outcome of this effort enables UMass Chan faculty to utilize artificial intelligence in their clinical practice to identify patients at risk for aortic aneurysm using newly enhanced imaging data.
Q: Your thoughts on business model innovation as it pertains to the world of research?
A: Perhaps the most difficult challenge IT faces is establishing efficient markets for research services. Research “markets” connect bench scientists to core labs (e.g. tissue banks), industry with intellectual property, or philanthropists with innovators. Unlike a consumer market such as Amazon, the goods and services being offered in research markets are not easily quantifiable. A “shopping cart” approach doesn’t work when researchers want to recreate a specific assay using a particular microscope configured in a precise way. Conversely, industry and philanthropists often have particular goals in mind that need to be matched with basic science underpinnings. This is like wanting to fund low carbon emission air travel and needing to be connected with basic research in aerodynamics.
We are partnering with technology partners like Salesforce to create research markets tailored for needs that are unique to the academic health sciences ecosystem, where out-of-the-box or one-size-fits-all implementation models are insufficient. We are rolling up our sleeves and building each market. It’s hard work. So far, we have found that each success inspires new ideas for the next challenge.
In the world we live in, it’s far easier to buy a new smartphone case than it is to find clinical trials for those we love. I’d like to flip that.
This article was co-authored by Greg Wolf, CIO at UMass Chan Medical School.