Charles Friedman, a top federal scientific officer in the Department of Health and Human Services, will head the new joint master’s program in health informatics offered by the University of Michigan School of Public Health and School of Information.

UM is the state’s first public university to offer a graduate program in health informatics and one of the first schools in the nation to focus specifically on consumer health informatics.

Friedman, who has more than 30 years experience in higher education, leaves a senior position as chief scientific officer of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He starts at UM on Sept. 11.

“I was profoundly attracted by the University of Michigan’s distinctive emphasis on game-changing information technologies that will be used by health care consumers– which means all members of society — to promote health and wellness in entirely new ways,” Friedman said. “The graduates of this program will be innovators at the forefront of a revolution.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted a candidate of Charles Friedman’s stature and experience to head this cutting-edge program,” said Jeff MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information. “Our goal is to have the leading graduate program in health informatics in the nation, and we can’t imagine anyone better qualified to help us achieve it.”

The new advanced degree reflects a major national effort to encourage the widespread use of new information tools in health care in order to decrease costs and increase the quality of care. The interdisciplinary program will offer students a range of subspecialties, including consumer health informatics, public health informatics and clinical informatics.

“Under Dr. Friedman’s direction we will educate the next generation of leaders who are equipped to meet the technical, ethical, legal and societal challenges posed by the inevitable transition toward the use of electronic records in the management of health and health care,” said Martin Philbert, dean of the School of Public Health.

Friedman has occupied his current position since 2009 and from 2007 to 2009 served as the nation’s deputy national coordinator for health information technology. He has also held federal positions as associate director for research informatics and information technology at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health and as a senior scholar at the National Library of Medicine.

Friedman led the creation of informatics programs during his professorships in medicine, information science and biomedical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina. He is the author of a well-known health informatics textbook and serves as associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The master’s program begins in fall 2012, and will require 52 credit hours and an internship to complete. In addition, students enrolled in other graduate programs at UM may take six courses totaling 18 credits to earn a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics. The certificate program begins in fall 2011.

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