Rowan brings technology classes to Cooper's doorstep

Rowan brings technology classes to Cooper's doorstep

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It might not come as a surprise that someone with the title “Dr.” is hard at work developing tools to evaluate health care at the one of the region’s premier medical facilities, Cooper University Hospital.

But it might be a surprise that he is an assistant professor of computer science at Rowan University.

The “he” in this case is Anthony Breitzman, the Data Analytics Program coordinator at the Glassboro-based University.

“We’re training their nurses, informatics people, support staff in data analytics,” Breitzman said.

That’s about more than crunching numbers. Data analytics in part deals with finding patterns, and those patterns may be important to patient care and the financial well-being of Cooper.

The class came about after Nancy Street, an assistant vice president at Cooper, turned to Rowan for suggestions on hiring data analytics professionals who could build data models to predict a host of information, including length of hospital stay. “They looked for people to hire. Eventually Nancy concluded that rather than find perfect candidates they should retrain their own people in these methods,” Breitzman said.

"We partnered with Rowan to teach our team data mining methods. Finding data scientists in healthcare is like finding a unicorn, so we decided to develop our own," Street said.

During fall semester 2016, Breitzman taught Data Mining I, a graduate course that teaches statistical and modeling techniques for finding patterns in large data sets, once a week to 12 people. This spring, Dr. Min Wang, a professor in the Mathematics Department, taught data visualization, which focuses on exploratory data mining of big data sets. Classes were held on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

Everyone who completes the four-course program will earn a certificate of Graduate Studies in Data Analytics.

One of the students is Black Belt Process Improvement Specialist Linda Valenti, R.N., M.S.N., M.B.A, in Cooper’s Operational Excellence Department, who wanted to study gastric bypass care.

She used a data mining technique called sensitivity analysis to determine why some patients were hospitalized longer than others.

“The conventional wisdom was that the surgeries tended to be on Thursday, and so patients weren’t discharged by Friday afternoon they would end up staying for the whole weekend until their doctors returned on Monday,” Breitzman said. “Linda debunked that and showed that the main drivers were the age of the patient and whether the patient was widowed. Cooper is now brainstorming possible interventions that should go live by the end of this quarter. They will then do similar analyses of various other procedures.”

The Rowan Data Analytics program works with other organizations as well, including Mission Solutions Engineering in Moorestown, for which it has been providing graduate-level classes onsite for several years.

The program, Breitzman said, is important for the students, who can attend classes onsite, and for professors, who are working with real-word data and opening the doors to further grant-funded research.

Perhaps most important, he said, “This reflects Rowan’s commitment to higher education and community development.”