Jose Galvez, M.D., ’93

This NIH program leader has advanced the field of informatics since its infancy in the ’90s, both at UC Davis and nationwide.

Hacking friends’ computers for pranks and developing simple coding programs were just college hobbies for this scientist, until computers and medicine combined to form a new health care specialty and led the way to a big career discovery — the field of informatics.

Jose Galvez (M.D., ’93) began to help mold this emerging field while completing his pathology residency at UC Davis Medical Center. During this time Galvez was writing his own programs to search through the pathology information system, and the display of aptitude landed him an offer to become one of the first trainees in the university’s new medical informatics fellowship program.

“This was the first time I had heard that you could combine computers and medicine into one specialty,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying informatics ever since.”

Throughout his career Galvez has led the development of novel informatics programs used to support research and discovery, along the way helping to transform the use of scientific information for biomedical discovery and patient care.

Due to his creation of many innovative tools and work toward improving patient communications, Galvez is the recipient of the UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association’s 2017 Transformational Leadership Award.

Bringing analytics to research

Since his days as one of the earliest medical informaticists, Galvez has played a national role in establishing the field as a discipline. He began his career as an assistant pathology professor and as UC Davis Health’s director of bioinformatics, where he developed the health system’s Health Informatics Program and created an innovative “Visible Mouse” project for the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine’s Mouse Biology program. The project produced a digital resource of mouse anatomy and histology for the research community.

“This tool gave researchers a way to come back and study mouse anatomy, histology, and physiology without having to sacrifice mice unnecessarily,” he said. “We hosted histology on many of the popular mouse strains which were commonly used in breast, prostate and gastrointestinal research.”

His research tools have since reached a national level of regard and use, and have been supported by organizations such as the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, both parts of the National Institutes of Health or NIH. Galvez has received multiple high-level awards from these agencies and has also guided scientific collaborations, including the United States-Latin American Cancer Research Network.

“The network was a collaboration that bridged the knowledge gap in how to conduct and analyze large-cohort clinical trials,” he said. “We worked with each country in things such as data security — both physical and digital — and data analytics, including the tools used to do the data analysis.”

Informatics transforming health care

Today Galvez continues to explore and create new ideas as chief of the NIH Office of Biomedical Translational Research Information System (BTRIS), a resource that allows NIH researchers to access data from their own active protocols and de-identified data across all protocols. He believes that the role of informatics will only increase in prominence.

“As medicine becomes more personalized and genomics move into mainstream heath care, informatics will be needed to help providers sort through the vast amounts of data and assist in decisions,” he said.