Remembering an Informatics Pioneer and Compassionate Friend

By: By G. Daniel Martich, M.D., Chief Medical Information Officer, UPMC

James Edward (Jim) Levin, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical information officer of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, died unexpectedly on Sunday, Feb. 10.  As the song goes, “Only the good die young.”   Jim was more than good – he was a great person!  And, at 54, he was entirely too young to leave this world. Despite his relative youth, Jim was a pioneer in pediatric informatics during his six-year tenure at Children’s. His accomplishments in medical informatics were well-known throughout the health care industry: computerized physician order entry (CPOE) adoption, the first HIMSS Level 7 designation for a pediatric hospital, best-in-class physician documentation, impressive utilization of clinical decision support, collaboration in research, and excellence in teaching. 

The “other” part of the story as it pertains to Jim Levin is what made him the lovable, friendly colleague of so many of us in the medical informatics community.  Jim had a passion for outstanding patient care, especially for children.  This passion was never expressed with fists pounding on a table to make a point about the most appropriate way to manage clinical workflow or embedding decision support alerts.  Jim used his high intellect, together with his equally high emotional intelligence, to smile, gently make his point, and wait for the rest of us to catch up to his novel insights. He demonstrated compassion and caring in everything he did.

That attitude extended beyond the workplace. Jim largely succeeded in the struggle many busy individuals face with work-life balance.  Jim loved his wife and children and lived for them and their happiness, by all accounts.  He even found a way to include his family in his work activities by engaging daughter Hannah, a junior psychology major at the College of Wooster, to be a co-investigator on a CPOE paper.  Their efforts led to Hannah’s presenting at the annual American Medical Informatics Association meeting in November.  Jim also found time to enjoy the company of his work colleagues occasionally outside of the hospital.  In fact, it was less than a week ago that a group of us from medical informatics got together at the Penguins hockey game to relish a Pens victory.  For those of us who saw Jim for the last time on that Thursday, we remember him as he always seemed to be…smiling.