Oliver Jintha Gadabu (Ph.D. candidate 2022) is a pioneer of sorts: He is one of the very first students to pursue a doctorate in health infrastructures and learning systems, an innovative program at the Medical School that blends information and social sciences in order to transform health care. Growing up, Gadabu was eager to study medicine, but a passion for IT and an investigative mind steered him toward infrastructure research. Instead of treating patients, Gadabu wants to treat and improve the systems by which they are cared for — to yield change at a foundational level.
While working at the Baobab Health Trust in his hometown of Lilongwe, Malawi, Gadabu heard about the U-M Department of Learning Health Sciences — the first of its kind in the nation — from colleagues, and, a short time later, he made the 8,000-mile trip to Ann Arbor to help forge this nascent field.
“It is an exciting feeling to be considered the pioneer cohort in a field. At the same time, it brings the responsibility of setting the standard: We need to create an identity, to develop language that should be relevant to different fields. The advantage, of course, is that we are getting a head start — this program is at the frontier of putting knowledge into practice. The vision of learning health systems is being built at the University of Michigan, and it is exciting to be part of that process.”