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12/16/2005
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Change Agents

Scott Kveton? Blake Caldwell? Here are some people you probably don't know who will shape IT in the coming year.

No Time To Retire

Dr. Blake CaldwellAfter 12 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Blake Caldwell was set to retire in the fall of 2001. Her office was packed, and her retirement party was scheduled-for 3 p.m. on Sept. 11. Plans changed.

Caldwell started working on biosurveillance at the CDC, initially part time and then full time, leading BioSense RT, part of CDC director Julie Gerberding's effort to make the agency more responsive after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. BioSense RT is a project to let the CDC for the first time collect and analyze real-time clinical data from civilian hospitals, giving researchers a chance to quickly spot and track the spread of disease, be it a virus like bird flu with the potential to become an epidemic or the result of a bioterrorist attack. Just how big a change is this? The CDC will get data every 15 minutes, instead of weekly, directly from hospitals.

Caldwell, 57, is the driving force behind the project, which she co-leads with technical expert Barry Rhodes. A pediatrician and clinical epidemiologist, she has experience in an array of health-quality, research, and informatics programs. "Blake brings knowledge of clinical medicine and health-care delivery systems and knows how they need to be integrated with public health," says Lynn Steel, strategy and innovation officer in the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Prevention and Emergency Response.

By year's end, more than 60 hospitals in 10 cities will use secure Web-based apps to send data, including symptoms seen in emergency rooms, lab results, and pharmacy orders. The CDC, as well as state and local health departments, will use the data to identify patterns that could signal a disease outbreak. It's the first time data will come directly from health-service providers without state or local officials first spotting suspicious patterns.

The goal is to identify an event within two hours of the data being collected and sent to the CDC, Caldwell says. By the end of 2006, another 30 hospitals will be online. Eventually, large health-care providers will monitor outpatients via the system, which is already in use at military and veterans' hospitals.

BioSense RT is Caldwell's current passion, though she holds out hope to someday make time for her hobbies of gardening and show-dog training. "I never expected to be back full time," she says. "Once BioSense gets on its feet, I hope to go back working only two-thirds of the time."

--Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

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