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Genomics Informatics Leader Spotlight: Grant Gillis and Don Newsham

Stepping into the Spotlight

Grant GillisGrant Gillis is a member of the Canadian delegation to ISO Technical Committee 215 Health Informatics, and is the inaugural Chair of Canada’s Mirror Sub-Committee to ISO TC 215’s SC1 Genomics Informatics. He is a passionate health informatics subject matter expert, project manager and leader in the health care sector. Currently a Director with Alberta Health Services, he provides leadership and oversight to the three key Health Information Management (HIM) portfolios: Data Integrity for Client and Provider Identifiers; HIM Project & Business Solutions; and HIM’s engagement in the Connect Care provincial Clinical Information System (Epic) project. Grant’s previous roles include: Executive Director with Digital Health Canada; Director of Standards Program with eHealth Ontario; Director of Certification Services at Canada Health Infoway; as well as engagements with CIHI, CSA and University Health Network. He is a respected subject matter expert in standards development with 30 years of experience with such SDOs as HL7, IHTSDO and DICOM.

Don NewshamDon Newsham is a Canadian and global digital health and informatics executive, bringing over four decades of public, private, government, non-profit and international health care experience to advancing health information and technology for targeted needs, engaging projects and remarkable clients through a strategic lens, a facilitative and collaborative approach, a vast network of Canadian and international contacts and a practical approach to the challenges and issues being addressed. Don's roles include:

  • ISO/TC215/SC1 Genomics Informatics, International Founding Co-Lead, Current Canadian MC Administrator (since September 2019)
  • ISO/TC215 MC Chair, Head of Delegation for 13 years (2005-2018)
  • Standards, ISO and ISO/TC215 expert, author, working group convenor, delegate, advisor and leader for 20 years (2000 – 2020)
  • COACH Association Chief Executive Officer for 9 years (2006 – 2015)
  • Senior and experienced health care consultant with SIERRA SYSTEMS, having delivered enterprise wide strategies, architectures and top government support services for 9 years (2000 – 2009)
  • Former regional health authority CIO and CFO (1979 - 1999)


quotation markOur goal is to meet the pressing need for relevant international informatics standards for the rapidly growing field of omics, including genomics, proteomics and phenomics data, information and knowledge

Infoway connected with these two leaders to welcome this new group to InfoCentral and hear their thoughts on how it will make a difference in improving health outcomes across Canada.

Let’s hear from each of you: why do you believe in digital health?

Grant: I know first-hand the power and impact of digital health locally, nationally and globally; particularly how it can enable and empower caregivers towards delivery of healthcare in a faster, safer fashion with higher quality, while providing better engagement, involvement and personalized care for Canadians and people around the world.

Don: The power of electronically shared health data and digital technologies has been demonstrated to me time and again. Having experienced such great care by doctors, nurses and others for myself and my family, I have seen the immense data load that our clinicians have in providing care; and I’ve seen the value of our shared health data and digital tools in day-to-day care. My wife participated in a genomics clinical research project contributing her data to the new and quickly growing genomics data field, a key domain with our new Genomics Informatics Subcommittee. I’ve also observed the stories of how patient care has fallen between the cracks when data was not shared accurately, quickly or fully. Digital health makes a difference in better care and much more yet needs to be done.

Why should people care about the Genomics Informatics - ISO/TC215 Subcommittee 1 community?

Standards in communicating and sharing health data are an essential foundation for safe, timely, quality and appropriate health care. The ISO health information standards community provides the collaborative home to bring, develop, agree and focus on those digital health standards that are globally accepted and locally adopted. Our work is all about the people and the engagement that our ISO standards community provides to enable a wide range of valuable standards in areas including patient safety, systems security, interoperable data, trusted apps, medication management, shared genomic data, patient summaries, data protection and many other standards domains in health informatics.

How do members of your community participate and make a difference to digital health in Canada? Does the community have any working groups?

Canadians participating in the ISO/TC215 national mirror committee have many roles that make a difference in our standards in digital health. Many target their participation in, and promotion of, ISO/TC215 standards to areas of personal, professional or organizational expertise and interest. Others are leaders, delegates or developers that choose to author or review, comment and ballot standards and contribute further by engaging at TC215 international meetings. Some members of our digital health standards community even serve as TC215 International Working Group convenors or secretaries, or task group members or leaders. TC215 has seven working groups and one new subcommittee on genomics informatics.

What are the regular meeting times of your community?

ISO/TC215, both as a whole and specifically for our new Genomics Informatics community, essentially has quarterly meetings for our mirror committee members. Our webinars are the best place for the entire digital health community to engage with our standards experts, leaders and developers and their colleagues across the country.

What are your long-term goals of the Genomics Informatics Community?

Overall, for our genomics informatics community, our goals are:

  • To meet the pressing need for relevant international informatics standards for the rapidly growing field of omics, including genomics, proteomics and phenomics data, information and knowledge.
  • Support genomics testing as a regular, common part of the delivery of clinical care, preventive care and population health, and as the foundation for precision personalized medicine and clinical research across the healthcare spectrum.
  • Eliminate barriers that inhibit widespread adoption of genomics in clinical care and research, specifically the lack of informatics standards that will enable electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical decision support (CDS) systems to optimally integrate, manipulate and share genomics and related information to ensure maximum care benefits and positive economic outcomes across our health system.

What are your community’s goals for 2020-2021?

As a newly launched subcommittee of TC215, our SC1 goals this year are to increase the membership and participation in our mirror committee, to communicate and engage with the broader genomics informatics community in Canada, and to bring forward to SC1 and support the first Canadian-led ISO/TC25 international standard: a phenopacket standard developed in collaboration with, and based on the work of, the Global Alliance for Health and Genomics (GA4GH).

What is a fun fact about you both?

Grant: Personally, I have been an aquaphile since my youngest years, from swimming and water-skiing at the family cottage, to many years of wind-surfing and dragon-boating, officiating with Swim Ontario, and now to “old-man” surfing as trips to Hawai’i and other warmer climes allow!

Don: I love hiking, biking, trekking and anything that gets me moving, building from my early years working at Red Deer Regional Hospital where I was actively recruited to the corporate fitness challenge for my speed-walking talents.

Get involved!

The ISO/TC215 Genomics Informatics Subcomittee meets quarterly. Join the community to get involved and receive email notifications of all GI community posts.

Do you have an idea or question that you want to share with genomics informatics professionals? Post it in the Genomics Informatics forum and get the conversation started.

Connect with Grant Gillis on InfoCentral or LinkedIn.
Connect with Don Newsham on InfoCentral or LinkedIn.

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