NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 14, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Meharry Medical College today announced the launch of a new data science initiative, the Data Science Institute at Meharry, a historic development in the treatment and care of the underserved.

The Institute will allow health care practitioners, researchers and students to mine more than 3.5 million medical and dental records to gain new and unique insights into medical, social and environmental issues and trends that impact the health of minority populations and the poor. As today’s standards of care are based largely on data from Caucasian patients, Meharry anticipates that the Institute’s wealth of real-time, curated clinical data will fuel learning, discovery and improvements in care for these populations for years to come.

“This is a monumental day for Meharry and for the students and patients we serve,” said James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “Big data is shaping the future of health care education, innovation and delivery, and Meharry students, faculty and partners now have a diverse and deep well of medical, social and environmental data at our fingertips. This unique and growing database will inform and enhance our mission to identify, analyze and address the health challenges facing minority and underserved populations.”

Hildreth unveiled the Institute on Thursday during the Global Action Platform’s Fall University-Business Showcase at ONEC1TY. Nashville Mayor David Briley made opening remarks, and was joined by Dr. Scott T. Massey, Founding Chairman and CEO of Global Action Platform and other community leaders at the event.

The Institute’s data is pulled from 200,000 unique patients who visited Nashville General Hospital, Meharry Medical Group and Meharry’s Dental School clinics over the last ten years. Patients represented in the data are 48 percent male and 52 percent female, and the age breakdown is as follows: 0-18 years (20.76%), 19-25 (14.53%), 26-34 (19.24%), 35-54 (29.90%), 55-64 (9.59%), and 65+ (5.99%). The data is anonymous and scrubbed of all Personal Health Information (PHI), such as name, address and other self-identifying information.

The Institute, located on Meharry’s campus, will initially target its research on four chronic diseases that disparately affect poor and minority populations: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Raw data from the Institute already indicates some potential trends that will drive additional investigation. Nineteen percent of the total patient population seen by the Meharry-Nashville General Hospital network in the last five years has been diagnosed with either hypertension or diabetes, and, in the last two years, the number of patients seen with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has risen 16 percent.

The Institute plans to release quarterly research papers on its findings and recommendations, and host at least one annual conference. It also will support new areas of research and study at Meharry, beginning with the first Data Science Service Class in January and a Certificate of Data Sciences, which will be offered in the 2019-20 academic year.

“I applaud Meharry and Nashville General for putting in place data infrastructure to build their understanding of their patients’ needs,” said Dr. Bill Paul, Director of the Metropolitan Health Department. “Nashville is changing, and our health needs are changing, so it is important to use data and track changes to help guide policies and decisions, both within health care systems and for the community as a whole.”

To learn more about the following organizations, click the links below:
Meharry Medical College
Global Action Platform

Ann Waller Curtis
DVL Seigenthaler, Finn Partners