As a show of their dedication to future and ongoing collaboration with one another, the Columbia VA Health Care System, and the University of South Carolina (UofSC) Big Data Health Science Center (BDHSC) held a Collaborative Data Conference on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. Open to both clinical and non-clinical leaders from South Carolina healthcare facilities, eighteen individuals gathered at the Columbia VA to partake in the collaboration. Adhering to strict social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines enforced by the VA, in-person attendance was limited but nearly 50 individuals joined the event virtually for a free of charge WebEx broadcast of the conference.

The conference featured six presentations that focused on the power of data analytics in advancing healthcare as well as a panel discussion titled “The Roles of Data and Advanced Analytics in Transforming Healthcare”. In addition to the panel discussion, three presentations qualified for American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) continuing education credit.

Conference speakers included a mix of leaders from the Columbia VA Health Care System and the UofSC BDHSC including, CEO of the Columbia VA Health Care System, David Omura, Ph.D.; Arnold School of Public Health (ASPH) Clinical Associate Professor & BDHSC MPI Bankole Olatosi, Ph.D.;  Columbia VA Health Care System Management Analyst, Philip Mullinax; Columbia VA Health Care System Program Analyst, Hugh Welch; ASPH Assistant Professor of Health Services Policy & Management, Chen Liang, Ph.D.; College of Engineering and Computing Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, Homayoun Valafar, Ph.D.; ASPH Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Jiajia Zhang, Ph.D.; and Dr. Sharon Weissman, Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases at UofSC School of Medicine-Columbia.

“I was thrilled to be able to collaborate with our great partners from the UofSC Big Data Health Science Center. They are 100% in line with our mission at the VA to drive innovation.  We were able to demonstrate that no matter where you work or what you do, bringing talented people together reaps great benefits,” said David Omura. 

“The successful execution of the VA Collaborative meeting is a demonstration of academia and government coming together to use the power of Big Data to unlock new solutions in healthcare. The BDHSC is at the forefront of connecting government, industry and academia together in the Big Data Science space as we work to improve lives. The relationship is symbiotic with the VA benefiting from technical competencies of faculty and students, while faculty access a comprehensive data source to answer important health care delivery and operational questions,” added Bankole Olatosi.

The Veterans Healthcare System is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, serving more than 8.92 million veterans, providing care at more than 1000 healthcare facilities. South Carolina is fortunate to have two highly skilled VA facilities, yet many don’t fully understand the role of the VA health system, how other healthcare facilities can collaborate with VA facilities to provide better care for patients, and what lessons non-military facilities can learn from the VA system. The BDHSC is a UofSC campus-wide interdisciplinary enterprise that conducts cutting-edge research and discovery, offers professional development and academic training, and provides service to community and industry. It consists of five content cores (Electronic Health Records [EHR] Core, Genomic Core, Bio-nanomaterial Core, Geospatial Core, and Social Media Core) and two functional hubs (Technology Hub and Business/ Entrepreneurship Hub) aiming to collectively promote the utilization of Big Data analytics in healthcare research, services and academic training.

To learn more about the Columbia VA Health Care System visit For more information about the BDHSC visit