Presence-Biomedical Ontology Fellow - applications open

Presence. is lead by Dr. Abraham Verghese and champions the human experience in medicine. One of our key initiatives is to reduce medical errors (ones that are not addressed by QI foci, but are due to the lack of necessary and appropriate human interaction) by harnessing technology for the human experience in medicine. More about Presence -

Dr. Mark Musen studies the development of semantic technology for use in biomedicine and leads the National Center for Biomedical Ontology ( Workers in biomedicine create ontologies to model the entities and the relationships among entities in a given discipline.  By creating an ontology, developers can clarify the essential features of some area of endeavor and they can provide a coherent means of talking about it and studying it.

The Presence-Biomedical Ontology Fellow would work under the guidance of Drs. Musen and Verghese to research and define a framework for the ontology of the psycho-social aspects of healthcare and disease prevention. In essence, the accuracy with which we measure, trend, and record body chemistry (serum sodium, for example) is not matched by anything beginning to resemble that accuracy when it comes to understanding and gathering data on questions such as: Who is this person? What is their social capital?  What are their values and beliefs?  (Something readily captured in Facebook but not in the EHR.)  What was the nature of the exchange in their first interview with the physician? What roles did each take on?  Were those roles useful? Was the physician role therapeutic or reactionary?  What is the nature of the patient’s body type?  What signs of disease does it actually show? (As opposed to what was ticked on drop down boxes.) How accurate and skilled was the physical exam? (The “data on the data” to quote Dr. Musen?)

We would like to eventually apply this ontology for precision health, medical diagnosis, intervention, disease prevention, and disease management.  

Skills & Background Required

We are seeking a trainee with experience in clinical medicine who is creative, thoughtful, and eager to learn.  Although experience in formal ontology, formal logic, or object-oriented design would be extremely valuable, it is more important to be able to think logically, to recognize what is salient in a problem and what is not, and to translate concepts with imprecise definitions into distinctions where the meaning is clear and consistent.

Time Commitment

At least a 25% time commitment, over one year, is needed in order to be able to make progress in this work. 


Applicant dependent and to be discussed with final candidate.

Application Process

Please submit a written cover letter and CV to Sonoo Thadaney, executive director, Presence, ( You may also direct any questions to her.