November 10, 2014 - 11:15 am
By P. Michele Ellison | Chair, Connect2HealthFCC Task Force and Deputy General Counsel

The American scientist and inventor Edwin Land once said, “don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”  (You may recall that Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation, which revolutionized instant photography.)

Connecting everyone, everywhere to the people, services and information they need to get healthy and stay well – the fundamental vision of the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force – is such a challenge.  It’s not impossible, in my view, but manifestly important to the health of our nation and the stability of our economy.  And, it’s not impossible if we continue to leverage the power of broadband and advanced technology tools.

Over the summer, the Task Force heard from a wide range of stakeholders in the broadband health space who agree that this is a challenge we must accept.  They’ve encouraged us to take the long view, pursuing tangible, near-term gains in accelerating broadband adoption and promoting health IT, but also thinking 10-15 years out so the Commission can stay ahead of the curve. 

An undertaking of this magnitude requires a multi-disciplinary approach and a broad range of stakeholder partners.  That’s why I’m pleased to introduce a key member of our team, Dr. Michael Chris Gibbons of Johns Hopkins University.  Dr. Gibbons serves as an FCC Distinguished Scholar in Residence, providing critical health IT, population health and data analytics heft to our team.  

Dr. Gibbons is a physician informatician, healthcare disparities and urban health expert whose academic research has focused on the use of technology and consumer health informatics to improve healthcare disparities.  He also received training in general surgery at Johns Hopkins, prior to completing a preventive medicine residency. 

Interestingly, Dr. Gibbons' work is leading the emergence of a new field of study called Populomics – the intersection of population science, medicine and health informatics.  In a nutshell, he’s pushing the envelope on big-data science and technology-focused approaches that could help improve the health of entire populations and allow doctors and other clinicians to target health solutions more finely by vulnerable geographic regions, communities, and families as well.  Dr. Gibbons is challenging us to think not only about how broadband-enabled health technologies can assist the sick, but also how technology can transform our understanding of health itself and of how we can stay healthy.  The FCC is committed to doing its part to make these advances possible.

When he’s not at the FCC, Dr. Gibbons wears many hats, including associate director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins’ Schools of Medicine and Public Health.  Read more about him here:  http://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/3769/Gibbons/Michael_Christopher.

We are incredibly fortunate to have access to Dr. Gibbons’ expertise.  Welcome to the FCC, Chris! Stay tuned for an inaugural blogpost from Dr. Gibbons on broadband’s grand promise in helping our nation meet the health and care challenges we face.