Interview R/Medicine 2018 conference organizer Micheal Kane

By July 23, 2018Blog, Events

The first annual R/Medicine conference is being held September 7-8 in New Haven, CT, and is a collaboration between R Consortium and the Yale School of Public Health Biostatistics Department. As the first public activity of the R in Medicine working group, it’s set to be a key event to bring together the medical community that leverages R in medical research and clinical practice.

Leading the conference committee is Michael Kane, who is an Assistant Professor in Yale University’s Biostatistics Department. With the conference coming soon he agreed to answer a few questions about the R community and the conference itself.

Tell us about the medicine industry’s use of R?

Michael: My first exposure to medicine using R came from my internship at Revolution Computing (now Microsoft R). At the time most companies used SAS and Revolution had started providing validated versions of R and some packages, similar to SAS’s validation process, which would allow R to be used in submissions to the FDA. Since then, the rules have changed, and R sees a lot more use in this space because it provides inexpensive access to powerful tools for designing and analyzing health, genetic, and clinical data. 
We are currently using and developing these tools to find subtypes in immunotherapy studies for treating cancer. Patients can respond very differently to cancer therapies depending which stage of cancer they have, how many previous treatments they’ve had, and the diversity of the tumor environment. By understanding how factors like these are related to prognostic heterogeneity, we can do a better job prescribing people with cancer the most effective possible treatments.

What drove you to create an event to bring together the R medicine community?

Michael: This conference was inspired by R/Finance. The committee does a fantastic job of providing an entertaining and informative conference. The richness and diversity of the talk subjects show how vast finance is and, at the same time, the speakers and other attendees are completely accessible. We want to bring that same sense of inclusiveness and collaboration to medicine, where sometimes practices become siloed. We hope people realize that we, in medicine, are also part of a rich large and rich area of research and we hope the conference helps to jell the community.

What is the organizing committee’s goals and measures of success for this first event?

Michael: Our goal for the first year to better understand the community as a whole. We are expecting submissions from the clinical trials community, the genetics and omics community, and the epidemiology community. We are hoping we get submissions from both academia and industry. We want to see how people are using R to advance human health. I’ll consider the conference a success if attendees find at least one talk where they are surprised, entertained, and delighted by a use of R that hadn’t occurred to them.
Our other goal is to reinvest in the conference. If we are successful, and we are able to secure enough sponsorship, then we would like to make it easier for people to attend the conference. This would include providing more awards for travel, particularly for students.

How do you see working with R Consortium as critical for driving consensus and critical mass in the medicine community?

Michael: The R Consortium has become the umbrella for the entire R community. Their approval lets the community know that this is the conference to go to if you are using R in Medicine.
We thank Micheal for his time, and hope that if you are in the medical community using R that you look to attend this event.