Rekha Divakaran, Master of Professional Science in Biomedical and Health Informatics

Rekha Divakaran

Where is home for you? 

I am originally from Chicago, Illinois and moved out to North Carolina after my marriage in 2016. I currently live in Raleigh with my family. 


Why did you choose health informatics? 

 In 2015, I obtained my PharmD from the University of Illinois at Chicago and began working as a community pharmacist with Walgreens after graduation. Even though, I enjoyed my work as a floater pharmacist, I felt that the impacts that I were making often were small. I wished to play a more integral role in helping to improve patient care and health outcomes. As we continued to integrate Digital Age technology into our lives, I discovered that the field of healthcare was also moving towards this transformation. Thus, I decided to pursue master’s in biomedical and health informatics to obtain the skillset that would enhance my clinical knowledge and allow me to contribute to the various innovations and technological advancements happening in healthcare.  

 The online MPS in Biomedical and Health Informatics program at UNC-Chapel Hill provided me wonderful platform to fulfill my educational and professional goals while also being a stay at home mom and small business entrepreneur.  


How would you describe your research to someone outside of your field? 

As a part of my BMHI internship experience for the program, I worked on the AnalyzeMed Project with the Laboratory of Applied Informatics Research at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Pharmacogenomics is the scientific discipline that understands how genetic variability affects drug treatment outcomes. As this science continues to play a more integral role in clinical decision making and as genomic data becomes integrated into health IT systems, there needs to be a way to utilize this information. The AnalyzeMed project is an ongoing pharmacogenomics endeavor that seeks to “ gather a deeper understanding of the potentially adverse interactions between genes/polymorphisms and prescription medications/molecules”, specifically in the African American patient population. The main objective of this project is to create different links between the following information: the medications and/or drug molecules, the genetic variants/mutations/polymorphisms, the adverse reactions, and its related literature and publications found on PubMed. This data is collected and then compiled into a database that is both searchable and easily accessible to its users. As this system develops, it ideally will be linked to other health information systems such as EHRs, which then can be utilized for clinical decision support during the input of medication orders by providers. In addition, this database can be used by researchers and patients to retrieve information about different genetic polymorphisms, their relationships to medications, and the subsequent adverse effects. 


What is your favorite thing about being a CHIP student? 

My favorite thing about being a CHIP student is that I am one amongst the diverse and unique group of students. Even though I was an online student during the duration of this program, I have had the pleasure of virtually meeting and getting to know my peers who come from all different walks of life. 


Is there a common misconception about a topic in your field that you wish to correct? 

Unfortunately, I find that there are still people who are unsure what exactly biomedical and health informatics is when I talk to them about my master’s program.  

In the Implementing Health Informatics Initiatives course, health informatics was defined as the discipline that concerns the management of healthcare data and information through the application of computers and other information technologies. More than the technology itself, it involves utilizing, applying, and addressing data standards, controlled medical vocabularies, usability issues, clinical workflows, and other aspects of optimizing data and information in healthcare to improve health outcomes and patient care. 


What is the best piece of advice you have been given?  

The best piece of advice that I have been given is to be kind and helpful to others. This idea is what has inspired my passion to pursue a career in healthcare. 


If you could only have 3 apps on your smartphone, what would they be? 

Google Maps, FacebookYouTube 


Share your favorite data science/health informatics meme-

You mean to tell me data science is more than a buzzword meme