Otis Gbala became the first SUNY Oswego alumnus who studied from Liberia, and served as the graduate banner presenter for December Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Gbala earned his master’s degree in the biomedical and health informatics (BHI) program, and the coursework has already advanced the work he does with PREVAIL –- the Partnership for Research on Vaccines and Infectious Diseases in Liberia, where he serves as data manager.

Since then, Gbala has been accepted into the University of Albany Ph.D. program in information science, with a data analytics specialization.

PREVAIL aims to use research to improve global health, with a mission to “conduct collaborative biomedical and public health research in accordance with best practices, to advance science, strengthen health policy and practice, and improve the health of Liberians and people worldwide,” according to the website for FHI Clinical, which coordinates the project.

PREVAIL’s partners include agencies from the West African nation and from the United States, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health provided funding through Enhancing PREVAIL to “develop staff capacities in key places for our clinical trials,” Gbala explained. “I took advantage of that opportunity.”

SUNY Oswego’s BHI program was one of the few options that dovetailed with what Gbala and the project needed, and he has been very pleased with the experience.

"I am grateful for the comprehensive structure of the BHI program, which seamlessly integrates essential elements such as data science, biostatistics, mathematical and computational modeling, qualitative and quantitative methods, machine learning, biomedical informatics methodologies and applications, e-health systems, systems design, integration, safety and security, digital health, information assurance, databases, system integration and interoperability, electronic health records, terminologies, evaluation methods including usability studies, information sciences, health systems, bioinformatics sequencing, software and web development and scientific writing," Gbala said.

"This holistic curriculum not only fosters a deep understanding of the field but also cultivates a diverse skillset that proves highly relevant in the ever-evolving landscape of biomedical and health informatics," Gbala added.

For PREVAIL, "One of our most significant projects involves the development of an innovative biomedical Laboratory Information System (LIS)," Gbala emphasized. "In my role, I am extensively involved in data management, encompassing tasks ranging from data engineering and architecture to leading the backend development and user portal of the LIS. This includes data integration and utilizing Python to extract data from various laboratory equipment for live data analytics and visualization of research participant samples collection and processing."

The classes have supported his current work and future in multiple ways.

The invaluable lessons from my coursework have not only contributed to the success of this project but have also played a crucial role in advancing my career and as one of the lead members in the discussion of establishing the PREVAIL clinical data center. The program has been instrumental in expanding my knowledge base and enhancing my skills, ultimately enabling me to excel in the dynamic and challenging field of biomedical and health informatics," Gbala said.

"I currently serve as one of the leads on the data management team, a role that has been greatly facilitated by my coursework in the BHI program," he noted. "The knowledge and skills acquired at SUNY Oswego have proven instrumental in advancing biomedical research, enabling me to contribute effectively to our clinical trials in a variety of ways. Moreover, this education has opened doors for collaboration with international experts from the U.S., enriching my professional experience and expanding my network."

The coursework providing a more holistic view of the field has deepened his understanding and opportunities for success.

"The inclusion of pre-requisite coursework in biomedical and health terminology within the program has been particularly beneficial, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the work undertaken by clinical staff," Gbala said. "Coming from a background in computer science and economics, this aspect of the curriculum has significantly enhanced my ability to engage effectively with nurses, physicians, laboratory personnel and other healthcare professionals. It has not only broadened my perspective but also fostered meaningful collaboration across diverse disciplines, contributing to a more comprehensive and impactful approach."

Gbala also offered a lot of praise to his faculty members and other Oswego contacts who have shared their expertise and support for anything he needed.

"I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be here," Gbala expressed. "Every aspect of what I am currently engaged in is rooted in the invaluable lessons and experiences I have gained at the State University of New York at Oswego. This institution has not only equipped me with the skills I need but has also prepared me for future opportunities. The wonderful people at SUNY Oswego have left a lasting impression on me, and I carry a lifelong appreciation in my heart. I aspire to pursue a data science Ph.D. with the ultimate goal of returning to SUNY Oswego to contribute to the community that has played a pivotal role in shaping my journey."

For more information on the master's in biomedical and health informatics program, visit the BHI program page.