Marcelo “Chelo” Lopetegui, MD is currently a post doctoral trainee at The Ohio State University’s Department of Biomedical Informatics (BMI). Originally accepted as a postdoctoral researcher within the Department, he was admitted into the first cohort of students of the M.S. in Biomedical Informatics program.
A native of Chile, Chelo was born into a family of physicians and musicians. While strongly considering a career in music, his notable aptitude in mathematics and the long familial medical tradition guided his path to medical school; he decided to become the 5th generation physician in his family. While working towards his MD in Santiago at the Pontificial Catholic University of Chile, Chelo spent some of his free time honing his web design skills.
“What started as a simple static web page for physicians rapidly grew into comprehensive electronic data capture tools to support clinical research. My peers and instructors took notice and, with that recognition, came increased visibility and project requests. The interest in my ‘hobby’ grew big enough that I actually hired friends from school and started a small company.”
It wasn’t long before Chelo’s medical education and his web design hobby intersected. He explored how to integrate his medical training with web design, application development, and clinical research. Essentially, what he discovered almost by accident was informatics. As a result, he eventually found his way to one of the annual informatics conference hosted by the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) in San Francisco, California. While visiting various booths at the conference, Chelo crossed paths with Ohio State representatives who spoke to him about the burgeoning BMI department, and arranged a five month rotation/internship at OSU BMI as part of his elective training courses in his home institution’s medical curriculum.
“During my internship at OSU, I met with BMI faculty, who all provide a broad spectrum of expertise in the major areas of informatics. Beyond that, I liked the working environment at OSU and the city of Columbus – it’s green, not as densely populated, and the people are friendly. All of that factored into my eventual decision to apply to the newly established master’s program within BMI.”
His interest in OSU was now firmly rooted. In fact, upon finishing medical school in Chile, Chelo and his wife, also a medical doctor, returned to the U.S., after he accepted a position as a postdoctoral researcher in biomedical informatics at OSU.
Chelo recently began his second year in the M.S. program but, true to his entrepreneurial roots, he has already begun developing a handful of notable tools. One of his projects is a time capture tool he refers to as TimeCaT. It is a comprehensive, user-centered web application developed to support data capture for time-motion studies, which is the standard method of measuring and quantifying clinical workflow for healthcare systems. Think of TimeCaT in the vein of algorithms, as opposed to more traditional methods of measuring like paper and stopwatches. Chelo reports that TimeCaT is steadily being adopted by hospitals and health systems across the U.S. and worldwide. In fact, he recently presented the tool at the 14th World Congress on Medical and Health Informatics in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Another of Chelo’s projects that has piqued his excitement is the Mobile Clinical Knowledge Test (MoCK Test).
“In the busy and episodic life of the modern student, the ability to devote small windows of time to prepare for an upcoming exam is important. Medical students typically rely on sample questions used in previous years’ exams, usually in pdf or paper format, to prepare. MoCK Test presents multiple choice questions on a student’s smart phone in a quick and touch-friendly way. However, the true innovation relies on the back-end: I developed an algorithm that generates concrete knowledge questions automatically by consuming existing medical ontologies. This allows the student to select a medical category and answer multiple choice questions generated by the system. This idea could be expanded to any science domain. Just plug in your ontology, and start studying!”
Chelo certainly possesses an innate entrepreneurial spirit and thirst for innovation. However, he credits his experiences at OSU with harnessing his gifts and visions in a way that will resonate for the rest of his career.
“I am extremely grateful for my time with the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Ohio State. The opportunity they gave me to discover informatics as an intern and as a postdoc were invaluable. The faculty and my colleagues helped me identify and enhance my skillset and prepared me for sustainable success in my future professional endeavors. I envision relocating to Chile but continuing a successful international collaboration with my advisors and colleagues at OSU BMI."