Health Informatics Expert Finds Answers in the Data

January 2021
Rute Martins
MITRE employee Rute Martins

Rute Martins, a MITRE health informaticist, is passionate about using data to drive solutions to healthcare challenges. Her work on mCODE™ and the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition shows how data can help transform health.

Growing up, I vacillated between wanting to be a clinician and an engineer. What tipped the scale for me was that as a clinician, I would be helping one patient at a time. But with an engineering degree, I could improve entire health systems and have a much bigger impact.

Roots in Health Information Technology

Early in my professional career, I started working in health informatics [multidisciplinary healthcare information engineering] and knew it was my calling. I grew passionate about using data to develop solutions to the health problems we face.

I first learned about MITRE when I was working on making electronic clinical quality measures a reality. I knew that using these measures could help us make great strides in improving healthcare delivery. Something as simple as using EHR [electronic health record] data to determine if stroke patients were receiving appropriate care could make a huge impact.

Through this work I met and collaborated with MITRE folks on Bonnie—an open source tool for testing electronic clinical quality measures—that was developed in MITRE’s independent research program.

The MITRE team really impressed me. They took a new approach to solving a big problem the entire industry was struggling with. They also sharpened my view of what an FFRDC [federally funded research and development center] could do and how it was a unique environment to drive innovation in the health space.

The power and impact of what they could accomplish as an FFRDC made me realize that MITRE was the place I wanted to be.

Developing Data-Driven Solutions

In my five years at MITRE, I’ve supported a swath of projects across many informatics domains. One of the ones I’m most proud of is my work co-authoring the mCODE [minimal common oncology data element] standard. With consistent data standards, we can transform cancer care and research.

It was an immense honor to be a part the mCODE team. We were able to bring mCODE to HL7 [an international health standards development organization] in record time. I’m especially proud of leading the collaboration between clinicians, researchers, and implementers to scope and develop early specifications.

I’ve also been a part of MITRE’s efforts on the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. This has been a deeply gratifying experience. I was the informatics lead on federated EHR data studies looking at possible therapeutics for COVID-19.

For example, in one study we used data from three different partners to show that famotidine did not improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients. In another study, I led the design of data specifications to study the efficacy of convalescent plasma. These have been multidisciplinary, multi-organization efforts to gather and analyze data in the fight against COVID-19. It’s been an honor and a privilege to bring these organizations—often competitors—together to quickly agree on common data definitions and share data with the coalition to save lives.

Caring About the Health and Safety of Employees

I really appreciate MITRE's commitment to innovation adaptability and risk-taking. The coalition is a perfect example of the embodiment of our culture—to foster collaboration on a large scale. And not everyone can say they work at a company that funds independent research to address the greater good.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our commitment to putting people first. Throughout the pandemic, MITRE's leadership at all levels has shown it cares about the health and safety of employees. And as an expectant mother, I know I’ll have the flexibility I need to take care of my growing family.

—as told to Kay M. Upham

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