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Med Student Builds Popular iPhone App

July 30, 2009– Around the time Nathan Bender (M’09) received his Georgetown medical degree, he acquired another credential – software developer, thanks to an iPhone application he invented.

As part of a class assignment, Bender created “ShotRecs” for Apple’s iPhone. The application, or app, helps physicians and nurses keep up with vaccines needed by children, adolescents and adults.

More than 2,000 medical students have downloaded the 99-cent app, which promptly shot up to the top 20 list for iPhone health care applications.

Immunizations? There’s an App for That

ShotRecs mirrors the 2009 immunization schedules used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an easy-to-read, rapid reference guide. Bender’s app is part of an overall medical informatics trend – the melding of health care, computer science and information science.

“The goal of medical informatics is to allow us to have better care for patients and reduce medical errors. I wanted to see how realistic this is, and what I could do,” says Bender, currently interning at the Memorial Family Medicine Residency program in Houston. His basic application “provides immunization information. It doesn’t aid in medical decision making.”

Medical informatics improves medical care by providing ready access to the latest information and facts, says Dr. Steve Schwartz, associate dean for informatics at the School of Medicine. Health care apps are increasingly popular for smart phones.

“Apple encourages a grassroots system of building applications. Any medical student, or health care provider, can try to write one and submit to Apple for widespread use,” he says. “How wonderful is that?”

From Med Student to Software Developer

Bender, a Long Island, N.Y., native, didn’t think of himself as a “software guy” until an elective course in primary care informatics sparked his interest in the uses of medical information.

Students observe the use of computers in clinical practice, acquiring informatics knowledge and skills through readings and tutorials, and working on a research project or application development.

“Informatics will play an increasing role in the careers of Georgetown School of Medicine graduates and we should expect some of our students to become leaders and innovators in the field,” says course instructor Dr. Alan Zuckerman, assistant professor in community and family medicine and pediatrics.

Bender’s app creation took less than three weeks using a software development kit and a book about the basics of software coding. “After spending several days reading the book, I knew I could do it,” Bender says. “Still, I surprised myself because I had real doubts in the beginning that this was possible.”

Now that his app has proven popular, Bender vows to update the software as necessary.

“All I know is that I will use it to keep up with my patients’ vaccinations,” says Bender, who plans to pursue medical work with an intercity underserved population. “And that will help me provide good medical care.”

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