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Toward More Effective Patient-Centered Healthcare: SOM Professor Named NJIT's First Leir Chair in Healthcare

Yi Chen, Ph.D., an associate professor in NJIT's School of Management, has been appointed to the Henry J. Leir Chair in Healthcare.

Yi Chen, an associate professor in NJIT’s School of Management whose research provides cutting-edge technologies for data management with an emphasis on health care applications, business and the Web, has been appointed to the Henry J. Leir Chair in Healthcare. 

Dr. Chen, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Computer Science and in the Department of Information Systems, considers the appointment “a great honor.”

“The Leir Foundation has generously supported innovative research and practices in health care,” she says. “I am delighted to have an opportunity to extend the Leir Foundation’s existing efforts by leveraging my expertise in big data analytics to make an impact in health care and people’s lives.”

Recent statistics indicate that there were approximately 500 petabytes of health care data in 2012, and it is expected to reach 25,000 petabytes by 2020. Big data provides the potential to revolutionize the health care industry from the traditional reactive and hospital-centered approach to a proactive and person-centered approach, using evidence-based strategies. Driven by data, researchers can find more medications, physicians can determine the most effective treatment, patients can make informed decisions, and insurers can predict and reduce costs. However, thus far, the industry has focused on capturing the data into electronic formats.

“Where we have fallen short is making the data captured useful in analytics,” says Dr. Chen.  “Achieving smart health and well-being demands that patients take active roles in understanding their health status and in making informed decisions.”

Dr. Chen is investigating how to harness social media to provide patient-centered tools to assist patients, caregivers, doctors and researchers to discover knowledge and to provide support. 

“Today, people often resort to the Internet for information,” she says. “Social media—in particular, health care forums such as PatientsLikeMe and Medhelp—play an important role in health care, where increasingly large numbers of patients are sharing their personal experiences, participating in discussions, expressing their feelings and emotions, and supporting each other.”

Prior to joining NJIT, Dr. Chen was an associate professor at Arizona State University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Her research has been generously supported by 11 external grants from National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Science Foundation Arizona, IBM and Google. She is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award, a Google Research Award, an IBM Faculty Award, an Outstanding Researcher Award in Computer Science & Engineering in ASU. She is currently serving as an associate editor for the Journal of Distributed and Parallel Databases (DAPD), the Proceedings of Very Large Databases (PVLDB), and Electronic Commerce Research and Applications (ECRA). She served as a General Chair for SIGMOD 2012, and has served on program committees for approximately 50 conferences and served as a reviewer/panelist for various funding agencies in USA, Canada, Israel and Hong Kong.

The Henry J. Leir Chair in Healthcare is an endowed chair funded to promote innovative research, technological solutions, and computational methods in healthcare that support advancements in human health and well-being. Henry J. Leir (1900-1998) was an American industrialist, financier and philanthropist who was known for his charitable endeavors as the founder of the Ridgefield Foundation and the Leir Foundation. The Leir Foundations have been making generous gifts to hospitals, underprivileged children, Jewish institutions, and universities with charitable purposes of having the widest benefits to humankind. In addition to the Henry J. Leir Chair in Healthcare, the Leir Foundations have also endowed the Henry J. Leir Professor of International Trade and Business and the Leir Center for Financial Bubble Research in the School of Management at NJIT.

By Christina Crovetto