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Don Burleson Blog 








Pursuing Oracle Medical Informatics

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson


I was told that being a OCP, a M.D. and Medical Informaticist is quite a good career move. Which is why I was interested in Oracle and its applications. Is this so?  I have completed my M.D. and will be doing my fellowship in Medical Informatics at a major University in the fall.  As I am sure you know, medical informatics deals a lot with databases and such. I was doing a search on medical informatics and databases and came across many Oracle sites with links to other related sites regarding books, forums, etc and your site was one among them....It was here that I read that many Oracle applications are involved with medicine/research. [Oracle Discoverer, OLAP, Oracle Data Mining].  My questions are:
1. Is it a good idea to get Oracle certified as a DBA [OCP in 10G] ?..i.e. is there any advantage especially with someone with my background?
2. If so, what books are recommended for someone like me, who is new to Oracle and its applications pertaining to medicine?
3. What is the best way to prepare for the OCP exams in DBA?
I will really appreciate your advice on the matter.

General Answer:

Over the years I've know several high tech Physicians who have learned programming and Oracle, and they all tell me that they entered the field of Medical Informatics because it is more fun, and because it has less stress and tedium than practicing general medicine.

For an good overview of medical informatics, read the article "Saving Lives with Oracle", by Dr. Carolyn Hamm.

Most physicians enter medical informatics after completing their residency, and I hear that it's easy in most hospitals because they always have a need for Medical Informatics MD's to certify their in-house medical applications.

The successful Medical Informaticists that I have worked with have these types of technical qualifications and certifications:

I've been told that some Medical Informatics programs at universities may not provide enough knowledge for advanced data mining and analytics, especially in chi-square and multivariate analysis.  I recommend lots and lots of advanced statistics; dust-off your freshman Calculus and Statistics books, and be ready to supplement your Informatics program with add-on skills.  I suggest:

  • Advanced multivariate statistics - Make sure that you get enough calculus and statistics to complete a standard university course in multivariate statistics (a 300-level undergraduate course with several calculus and statistics prerequisites).

  • Programming & development skill - You should have at least one "competency" level programming skills in a procedural language with enough experience to create an online interface that interacts with Oracle data.  I would recommend learning Oracle Apex (formerly HTML-DB), or maybe PHP for Oracle. 

  • Statistical analysis tools - You will need experience with data analytics tools, most commonly SAS, SPSS, and experience with advanced tools such as Clementine is a plus.

  • OLAP tools - In some medical research environments, you have be called upon to render cross-tab displays.  Learning tools such as Cognos, Hyperion and Oracle Business Intelligence Suite may be required in some cases.

  • Data Mining - You need to be familiar with the algorithms and techniques for data mining, including Bayesian.  See Dr. Hamm's great book "Oracle Data Mining", a must-read for any aspiring Medical Informaticist.

Also, you can engage working Oracle Informaticists (by the hour) to advise you in your Oracle medical career.  Let's get to your more detailed questions.

Question:  >> Is it a good idea [for an M.D.] to get Oracle certified as a DBA?

Yes.  In a field like Medical Informatics where certifications and licensing is important, an OCP is indispensable and an OCM is even better: 

  • Get an OCP - Becoming an Oracle Certified professional (OCP) lends credence to your skill in managing large volumes of medical data, especially with all of the concerns today about privacy.  In Medical informatics, the letters M.D., OCP look very good to an employer.

  • Get an OCM - For a medical doctor, I would suggest the Oracle Certified Masters (OCM), a challenging two-day Oracle practicum test, where you prove that you can install, configure, manage and tune an Oracle database.  If you have the time (40-80 hours study time) and money (about $3k, I think), it's a great companion to medical board certification.   Better still, the OCM is considered more of an "expert" status certification, and Oracle publishes the names of OCM holders on their website.  Also see:

Question:  What is the best way to prepare for the OCP exams in DBA?

Remember, I'm prejudiced, but BC offers outstanding one-on-one OCM training and mentoring from Steve Karam, an Oracle OCM and Oracle ACE.  Steve is an amazing mentor, and he has a high success rate in fast knowledge transfer.  You can get-together with fellow students in your Informatics classes and engage his OCM preparation class, a private group training experience with the hand-on experience that you will need in order to get your OCM.

Question:  >> If so, what books are recommended for someone like me, who is new to Oracle and its applications pertaining to medicine?

Of course, get the book "Oracle Data Mining", and take a look at the Oracle Business Intelligence resources.

For Oracle books, I work as Series Editor for Rampant TechPress and I like the "Easy Oracle" book series that is perfect for beginners and professionals in non-technical professional careers.

Question: Certain medical schools are now offering a combined M.D/ MMI program [Masters in Medical Informatics]..if one was to graduate from a program and apply directly to Oracle, what are his/her chances? salary expectations?

I cannot speak to salaries directly, but I've seen that MD Informatics doctors have a private parking space, a private office and a personal secretary.  If I had to guess, it's a premium over regular physicians, likely in the $150k-$300k range, depending on responsibilities.

Question: You mentioned knowledge of statistical analysis tools like: SPS, SPSS & CLEMENTINE, where can I get "trained" for this? and also OLAP tools?

Again, knowledge of statspacks helps because some Informaticists analyze large datasets, but it depends on the type of Informatics you enter. Don't worry, I'll be really surprised if you are not exposed to SPSS or SAS in your MD/MMI program.


If you like Oracle tuning, see the book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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