Celebrating 25 years of fueling medical advancement with information

November 2, 2016

OHSU celebrated 25 years of the Biomedical Information Communication Center on Oct. 28, telling a story about progress by tracing the evolution of programs and resources that the BICC, as it's now called, has housed since it was built in 1991. 

"It's important to take these moments to understand and celebrate how we became what we are and to consider how that history should inform our future," said William Hersh, M.D., professor and chair of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology, OHSU School of Medicine. "I'm grateful to our local and national leaders and faculty, past and present, who were willing to come to help us do this." 

BICC anniversary, celebration, event

Late Senator Mark Hatfield key to BICC birth

The BICC was built through the federal Integrated Advanced Information Management System initiative, which sought to springboard the management of information into a new era.

But the actual birth of the BICC came about in a uniquely Oregon way, through the earmarking prowess of the late Senator Mark Hatfield, whose visionary use of this funding mechanism transformed OHSU's landscape in the 1980s and 1990s. Hatfield added the IAIMS appropriation for the BICC to the National Library of Medicine budget. 

BICC anniversary, celebration, eventPatricia Brennan, R.N., Ph.D.

While this funding approach was viewed unfavorably by some in academic medicine and invited additional scrutiny from the National Library of Medicine, it resulted in a great deal of productive planning and 25 years of research, education and services for the OHSU community and beyond.

"The key to the success of the BICC was the energy and enthusiasm of the people who worked to plan innovative library services and launch one of the earliest health informatics programs in the country," said Chris Shaffer, associate professor and University Librarian. "The BICC represented a great leap forward into the information future for OHSU."

Celebration book-ended by history

Recognizing the link between the BICC and the National Library of Medicine, the day of celebration was bookended with talks by Dr. Donald Lindberg, the retired NLM director who led the Integrated Advanced Information Management System initiative and spoke at the BICC dedication in November 1991, and new NLM Director Patricia Brennan, R.N., Ph.D., a nurse informaticist (pictured above, right). In between, faculty and leaders past and present filled out the history of the work the BICC has supported from early telemedicine initiatives to a partnership between DMICE and the Library to develop Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) open educational resources. 

Speakers who helped frame past work and accomplishment of the BICC included:

  • David Witter, M.A. - former Interim President of OHSU
  • David Hickam, M.D., M.P.H. - former OHSU Professor and Portland VA physician
  • Dolores Judkins, M.L.S., A.H.I.P. - OHSU Library Associate Professor Emerita
  • Thomas Hacker, M.Arch. - BICC Architect
  • J. Robert (Bob) Beck, M.D. - inaugural Director of the BICC
  • Lesley Hallick, Ph.D. - former OHSU Provost

A lunchtime session featured posters of current projects from BICC entities, including:

  • Library
  • Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology (DMICE)
  • Educational Communications (EdCOMM)

BICC anniversary, celebration, eventA display of computers from the time the building opened, including early Macintosh computers and a NeXT machine that was similar to the one that served as the first OHSU Web server, provided a visual representation of how far information technology has come. 

The BICC: today and tomorrow

The afternoon session started with short presentations about present programs in the BICC, including an overview of Library activities by Shaffer and an overview of DMICE by Dr. Hersh. Dr. Hersh noted the tremendous return on investment not only in terms of research grants funded but also in contributions to dissemination via educational programs. 

Dr. Brennan rounded out the day by charting the future course for NLM library operations, biomedical informatics, data science research, and the future of open science and open data, leaving plenty of time for the audience to provide feedback on her vision and plans. The day ended on a festive note with a reception and open house for the whole campus to celebrate the history and accomplishments embodied in the BICC.