Becoming a Healthcare Data Scientist

My Current Baseline Data Scientist Skill Set

It will be interesting to compare my skill set once I finish the predictive analytics program to my current skill set.  I will outline my current skills so I can come back later and compare the two.

I will organize my skills using the format presented by Mitch Sanders in his blog article posted on 8.27.13 “Data Science – Capturing, Analyzing, and Presenting Data Skills”.  (http://datareality.blogspot.com/2013/08/data-scientist-core-skills.html).

1.  Capturing Data

Programming and Database skills:

I am weak in this area.  I have used R a bit to do some statistical analysis in the past.  I am currently learning Python  as I write this.  So far, I have found that Codecademy’s Python course is the best learning platform for me.  My next favorite resource is Zed Shaw’s book, “Learn Python the Hard Way”.  I really like his practical approach.  “Introducing Python.  Modern computing in simple packages” by Bill Lubanovic is also good, but but a bit more advanced.  Finally, the Visual Quickstart Guide “Python” by Toby Donaldson is a quick reference guide.  Going past basic programming, my skills are near or below zero.  I do not know how to use Hadoop, Java, SQL, Hive or Pig.

Business Domain Expertise and Knowledge

This is my strongest area of expertise.  I started off in medicine in 1984 as a basic EMT, became a EMT-Paramedic, and then Paramedic Educator.  I finished medical school (University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria Illinois) in 1994, and my Emergency Medicine Residency at Saint Francis Hospital in Peoria Illinois in 1997.   I have practiced academic and community based emergency medicine since then.   I have been a medical director for both ground based EMS and for a flight program.  I am also one of our health system’s Chief Medical Information Officers (CMIO), so have had to learn the field of Healthcare Information Technology as well.   In my current role I have a special interest in Business Intelligence and Analytics, including predictive analytics.  My passion is for developing smarter systems that can provide information about a patients risk of developing certain diseases/conditions, risk of deterioration/death, early detection of sub-clinical illness, and information about a patient’s response to treatment and therapy.  Hence my interest in predictive analytics.

Data Modeling, Warehouse, and Unstructured Data Skills.

I have minimal skills in this category.

2.  Analyzing Data

Math Skills.

I have basic math skills, but it has been a long time since I have had to do more than basic math, including calculus and linear algebra.  After I finish getting a basic foundation in Python, my next step is to refresh my knowledge of math/calculus/linear algebra before starting my “Math for Modelers” course this fall.

Statistical  and Analytical Skills

I do have a little better grasp of descriptive and inferential statistics.   But I will need to increase my knowledge of the advanced statistical techniques not commonly used in medicine today.  These would include predictive analytics, regression, multivariate analysis, linear models, time series analysis, machine learning, etc.

3.  Presenting Data

I am really excited to learn about and improve my data visualization skills.  I am really pushing hard for our organization to move away from excel and PowerPoint based presentations of data, to more relevant methods.

Storytelling Skills

I am a pretty good storyteller, but would like to improve my skills, especially in presenting the data and stories around the data.  I would like to help people  understand the insight created by the data analysis, and then help them move to operationalizing that insight, and driving organization change to improve patient outcomes.

In summary, my strongest skills are my love of data and analytics, my (obsessive) desire to become a data scientist, and my domain knowledge as it pertains to healthcare.  My other skills will have to be works in progress.

I would love to hear comments on what you think, and any recommendations/advice for students just starting this journey.

June 10, 2015

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