Edward Shortliffe

Jul 2004

(Note: my opinion is from the perspective of a CS major, not a premed / BME / BINF student.) This course is a valid CS technical elective, but it's about as "technical" as Music Hum. The only use of a computer for this course is to type the weekly homework assignments, which are all essay questions. The course introduces you the various applications of IT to medicine, especially the hospital environment. Topics include electronic patient record systems, biomedical imaging, electronic order form, and disease classification standards. Each topic is covered by a different professor from Columbia's uptown campus; Shortliffe himself handles 5 lectures or so. The material is quite interesting in a hands-on way--you get to see how the CS stuff you learn gets applied. As such, it often involves brief, simplifying revisits the traditional CS classes, e.g. Database and NLP and Computability. On the other hand, it also involves a lot of medical jargon unknown to CS students, which make up half the class. Although Shortliffe said that the course does not assume any prior exposure to medicine, the lecturers (again, med school profs) tend to forget that. But perhaps this is only fair, since the medicine people tend to find the CS stuff hard to grasp. The class also touches upon social and political issues like privacy issues and Medicare, as well as the theory and history behind Biomedical Informatics as a distinct academic field. Overall, a palatable salad of things and a nice escape from programming.