Soulakis Joins IDPH to Fight COVID-19

Nicholas Soulakis

Nicholas Soulakis, PhD, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Divisions of Health and Biomedical Informatics and Epidemiology, is taking a leave of absence from the medical school to work as an epidemiologist in the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Office of Policy, Planning and Statistics.

Soulakis, who specializes in epidemiological surveillance, will help the IDPH understand the number of Illinoisans infected with COVID-19 and predict how long the outbreak will last.

“To be called on to serve in a time of crisis, you train your whole career for that moment,” said Soulakis, who is also a professor of Medical Social Sciences. “At 20, by chance, an epidemiologist introduced me to ‘The Disease Detectives,’ ‘The Hot Zone,’ Ebola, AIDS, polio eradication — it’s all I ever wanted to do.“

At Feinberg, Soulakis investigates novel approaches to collect, analyze and communicate population trends from the data-rich environment created by health information technology, especially electronic health records. Since arriving at Feinberg in 2013, Soulakis has taught students across the spectrum of biomedical disciplines to rapidly build and evaluate surveillance systems in the 10-week Health and Biomedical Informatics Methods I course.

Soulakis is also director of data science services at the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and helps coordinate and organize Biomedical Data Science Day at Northwestern.

“Public health informatics is an excellent lens to teach the fundamental concepts of data science and informatics, and, equally important, how to improve our use of information for action,” Soulakis said.

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