Law professor to talk big data in health care at Friday’s Public Affairs Discussion Group

Sharona HoffmanSharona Hoffman, the Edgar A. Hahn Professor of Law, professor of bioethics and co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at the School of Law, will lead the next Public Affairs Discussion Group titled, “The Use and Misuse of ‘Big Data’ for Health Care.”

The discussion will take place Friday, Sept. 19, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Dampeer Room of the Kelvin Smith Library.

According to, the opportunities in this field will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs, and, in response, the university has created new undergraduate majors and minors in data science. The university website offers numerous claims that “big data” will improve detection of multiple cancers, or enable “personalized medicine.” The July 2014 issue of Health Affairs, the main health policy journal, focused on “Using Big Data to Transform Care.”

But data is not the same as information, and analytic methods are useless if the underlying data is insufficient. Collecting data creates its own burdens on the health care system. Professor Hoffman asks, “Is big data necessarily better data?” Join the group to discuss the pluses and minuses of the newest health policy craze.

Since 1989, faculty, emeriti, students and staff have gathered on Fridays for a brown-bag lunch and to discuss topics in public affairs.

For updates and more information about the Friday lunch schedule, visit