DBMI Spotlight: Stuart Weinberg

Each month, we will feature one or more members of our DBMI faculty, staff, student, trainee or alumni. If you or someone you know is new to the department, has an interesting backstory, or is making an impact at work or in their personal lives, email Mia Garchitorena at mia.garchitorena@vumc.org!
Stuart Weinberg, MD, FAAP, FAMIA, believes that his introduction to informatics was serendipitous.
While completing his residency in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) from 1985-1988, Dr. Weinberg was using a DEC Rainbow 100 computer in his apartment to create and print out his own patient and lab work lists so he could better track his clinical tasks. Using computers to assist with clinical workflows and patient care was somewhat novel at the time since modern electronic health records were still in their infancy.
One day in clinic, a Children's Hospital Adolescent Medicine Fellow noticed Dr. Weinberg reviewing one of his lists and asked where he got it. "I do this myself," he told her. She mentioned that her husband was involved with a group located next door which worked on computers in medicine and suggested he check it out. It happened to be theNational Library of Medicine Training Program in Medical Informatics, led by the Chief of the University of Pittsburgh's Section of Medical Informatics, Dr. Randy Miller.
"Talk about fate, right?" he says with a laugh. Dr. Weinberg joined Dr. Miller's informatics fellowship in 1990 and would go on to develop clinical workflow tools and applications that demonstrated functionalities, including easy access to patient demographics, visit histories, vitals, problem lists, insurance information, provider assignments, and immunization histories with clinical decision support.
Joining informatics "was like being a kid in a candy store," he says, adding that the field allowed him to merge his interests and skills in computer science and medicine. "Back then, the sky was the limit, and you could sit at a computer and program it to do what you want."
Now, Dr. Weinberg, who has served as Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Pediatrics at VUMC, is excited to get back to his computer programming roots as he prepares for retirement in December 2021.
Regarding DBMI, he says: "I was so glad to be a part of an environment in which I could explore innovation and collaboration and learn about best practices in large production programming. If you need expertise in any topic in informatics, you can find it among our faculty. And I've greatly enjoyed teaching students over the years."
Dr. Weinberg grew up in Dayton, Ohio. His father, an artist, illustrated newspaper ads for local department stores. He later became Public Information Officer for the county and city and a professor of public relations at the University of Dayton. His mother, a freelance copywriter, often collaborated with her husband on writing the ads he illustrated.
Pictured right: Dr. Weinberg's father featured in the Dayton Daily News. Caption: "Weinberg Glances at City's Financial Plan: He Designed Cover."
As a child, young Dr. Weinberg discovered his lifelong passions in medicine and computer science. He became interested in math, science and biology while attending a private school in Dayton. (Fun fact: He was classmates with award-winning actress Allison Janney!). There, he encountered his first computer while on a fieldtrip to Wright State University, a research institution in Dayton.
During the summers, he attended camp, which is where his interest in working with kids came about, he says.
Pictured left:Young Dr. Weinberg as the Archbishop of "Kernbury" at Camp Kern, 1981. "Since we weren't allowed to get up early to watch the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, we re-enacted our own version of the ceremony," Dr. Weinberg explains. "The 'prince' is wearing his Burger King cardboard crown. It was a great event."
He later attended Dartmouth College, majoring in math and switching to computer science once the institution introduced a computer science major to its curriculum for the first time in its history.
"I remember calling my parents to tell them, and my mom was so concerned that her dreams of saying, 'My son, the doctor,' were dashed because I was going to sit and do programming for the rest of my life," he says with a laugh. "I reassured her that I can do both."
Even then, he understood that medicine and computer science could naturally mesh. He attended medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and then completed his pediatrics residency at the CHP. On the side, he used computers to program various solutions to become more efficient and improve patient care.
"There's an artistry in programming, which I may have got from my dad," he adds. "You can sit and tweak a program to look a certain way."
While attending Dr. Miller's informatics fellowship in 1990, Dr. Weinberg developed a Pediatric Continuity Clinic database at the CHP, which was used until 2006 before the hospital implemented a commercial EHR.
Pictured below: Dr. Weinberg with two nurses from the back hallway of the CHP Continuity Clinic. "This was the epicenter of my application development work for the clinic, and those two nurses were very patient early adopters/users of my work!" he says.
Soon after the end of his informatics fellowship in 1993, Dr. Miller was recruiting a team to go to Vanderbilt. That team included Dario Giuse,Dr. Ing, MS, FACMI, and Nunzia Giuse,MD, FACMI, and others. Dr. Weinberg stayed in Pittsburgh and later moved back to Ohio to continue working as a pediatric hospitalist and medical informatician. He created websites and encouraged organizations to learn more about best-practice EHR functionalities and informatics activities.
Dr. Weinberg's first introduction to Vanderbilt's informatics activities was when Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, FAAP, FAMIA, FACMI, FIAHSI, former Chair of DBMI whom he met through the pediatrics community, recruited him to work on the DBMI website. Then in 2004, Dr. Weinberg interviewed for two positions at Vanderbilt (one was for Chief Medical Information Officer for the children's hospital, the other was a faculty member for DBMI). When the former fell through, Dr. Weinberg joined DBMI in August 2004.
At Vanderbilt, Dr. Weinberg accomplished many things, including developing modules for WizOrder/HEO, programming interfaces to the Tennessee State Immunization Registry, integrating a third-party immunization clinical decision support web service into the EHR, and leading the development efforts of the Outpatient Whiteboard application, a clinical workflow tool that ran within StarPanel, from 2005 through 2017.
One of his favorite memories from his time at Vanderbilt was when the WizOrder team held clinical informatics conferences - better known as "pizza sessions" - twice a week with residents, faculty, and programmers to troubleshoot existing issues and discuss proposals for new system features. "It was like a great meeting of the minds to make sure that users and programmers were on the same page," he says.
Pictured above: A picture of Dr. Weinberg's nine-month-old son, Nathan, taken in 1997. Nathan is now a 25-year-old programmer who majored in computer science. "The laptop - a 'ZEOS Notebook 386' that I purchased during my informatics fellowship in the early 1990s, garnered a bit of attention back then since laptops were not a common sight. It may have been the first laptop in our informatics group!" he says.
Dr. Weinberg has a robust list of accomplishments and awards, including serving as Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Clinical Informatics Technology, receiving Tennessee's first CDC Childhood Immunization Champion award in 2012, being inducted into the 2019 Inaugural Class of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Fellows, co-chairing the Executive Committee for a new HIMSS' Immunization Integration Program Collaborative, and much more.
These achievements reflect his true commitment to informatics. "The enthusiasm I have is from my ability to put on my medical and computer science hats to develop good tools to help doctors and nurses and improve care," he says.
Following retirement, Dr. Weinberg will continue his involvement with immunization registries in collaboration with the CDC, HIMSS, the American Immunization Registry Association and more. He also will continue to support various activities associated with summer resident camps- a passion of his since his early summer camper days - including fundraising for an endowment fund (The Carl B. Kern Fund) he established in 1987 which has since distributed more than $200,000.
On a personal note, he caught the genealogy bug several years ago and is looking forward to organizing a substantial amount of information he has collected through resources like Ancestry.com " a service he highly recommends!
If you'd like to wish Dr. Weinberg a happy retirement, or if you're also interested in looking into genealogy, you can email him at stuart.weinberg@vumc.org until December 31, 2021.