Yalini Senathirajah

Department of Biomedical Informatics
Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences/Health Sciences Division
622 W. 168th Street, Vanderbilt Clinic 534
New York NY 10032
yalini at dbmi dot columbia dot edu


My research interests include clinical and public health informatics, including development of a highly user-configurable 'web 2.0' electronic health record platform, doctor-patient communication, health disparities, interface design, the use of web technologies and mobile computing for medicine and health promotion (particularly in underserved populations), and the effects of technology on social networks and health. Other interests include global health, free/open source software, digital privacy issues as related to health and civil society.

Early fascination with the engineering beauty of living organisms led me to study biology at University of Guelph and Harvard University, where I concentrated in environmental physiology (physiologic adaptations of organisms to extreme environments) with a minor in East Asian Studies. I continued study at Ontario Veterinary College. Later, while working at MIT I discovered my interest in computing. I eventually became webmaster of the Columbia University Health Sciences campus, where I created/managed a large consumer-oriented health website and numerous other applications in support of research, education and patient care. Biomedical informatics allows me to combine all these interests and indulge my taste for putting things together in different ways across fields.

Current/recent projects:

  • My dissertation is on using web 2.0 techniques and philosophies in the electronic health record, with a view to implementing a new model of information delivery in healthcare. I created MedWISE, a highly configurable‘web 2.0’ EHR interface which allows clinician users to create, select, configure, and share information, displays and tools, via simple interfaces, without programmers. This includes the use of techniques such as user-created mashups and interactive visualizations. The premise is that giving healthcare providers some ability to create their own software elements/interfaces will result in software that more closely reflects their domain knowledge and meets their needs. Our research explores the effects of this approach for increasing clinician cognitive support, usefulness, efficiency, task-technology fit, and rapid reconfiguration to meet emerging healthcare needs. Sponsor: Dr. Suzanne H. Bakken.

  • Harlem Health Promotion Center. Community-based participatory public health research in Harlem. 5-year CDC-funded grant to create a healthcare portal for Harlem residents, to include community-based information and disease management tools. This involves doing focus group and random-digit-dialed telephone studies of health information seeking and techology use in Harlem, and studies of health, general, and computer literacy and appropriate interface design.
  • Observational study of clinical information needs in the Columbia-Presbyterian dialysis unit. With Dr. Leonard Stern.

  • Online ACASI HIV and health risk assessment and counsellor decision support (with Dr. Alwyn Cohall): Abbott-funded project to study and establish best practices for good use of rapid HIV testing; to be piloted in Harlem at GMAD (Gay Men of African Descent) shortly.

  • Project STAY: providing online health resources for adolescents, particularly with respect to health risk reduction and HIV management.

  • HDOX/Columbia SBIR project - to create a patient-focused interoperable PHR/EHR suitable for use in community health clinics across the country.

  • Randomized trial of online primary care provider training & decision support for prostate cancer screening


Translations (from French):
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Practicing Engineers, K. Arbenz, A. Wohlhauser, Artech House, 1986.
Telecommunications Systems, G.W. Fontolliet, Artech House, 1986.