Jessica S. Ancker, PhD, MPH, FACMI

Professor and Vice Chair for Educational Affairs
Department of Biomedical Informatics
2525 West End Ave.

Jessica S Ancker, MPH, PhD, FACMI, is professor of biomedical informatics and vice chair for educational affairs in DBMI.

My research centers on the optimal use of information and information technology to improve decision-making. I have a strong interest in health disparities and health equity.

The Making Numbers Meaningful Project, funded by an R01 from the National Library of Medicine, is an ongoing effort to synthesize best evidence about how to present health-related data to patients. We are conducting a massive systematic review of research from psychology, human factors, health literacy, and clinical medicine, developing a comprehensive ontology to help organize it, synthesizing evidence and best practices, and using this evidence to construct an interactive tutorial website for medical communicators. Our goal is to make sure that patients of all literacy and educational levels have the opportunity to benefit from access to medical information.

Our Comparative Effectiveness of Telemedicine in Primary Care project, funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), is examining the impact of the abrupt transition to telehealth experienced by much of the United States at the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020. In collaboration with our patient and provider stakeholders, we are conducting qualitative and survey work to understand the scope of the telemedicine transition, and a retrospective cohort study to assess the effect on patient-centered outcomes such as potentially preventable emergency room use. We hope to understand more about what works in terms of telemedicine, and whether it is putting any groups of patients at a disadvantage.

Other research focuses on health numeracy and data communication, health equity, human factors in clinical decision support, and health services research, especially the effect of health information technologies on healthcare quality.

Teaching is central to my identity, and I was the founding director of the health informatics graduate programs at Weill Cornell Medical College, where I taught evaluation research methods and introductory biostatistics. I currently teach Foundations of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt. 

However, my first career was as a journalist, working for several newspapers and the Associated Press wire service. After becoming fascinated with how people use – and misuse – statistical information in important decisions, I earned my master’s degree in biostatistics from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and my PhD in biomedical informatics from Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

I am an associate editor at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) and Medical Decision Making, and a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics.


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