Meet KI Alumnus Bek Tashbayev
KI Alumnus Bek Tashbayev says he was destined to become a doctor. “Everyone in my family was a physician, so pursuing medicine was almost second nature”, he admits, but due to his passion for IT, he has followed his own path. His journey from medical education in Uzbekistan to the Health Informatics programme at KI, and then on to Norway was far from etched in stone, especially given he did not acquire his first computer – a Pentium I- in 2006, just 4 years prior to coming to KI.
Degree: Master's in Health Informatics, 2012
Current role: Director of Development/Ophthalmologist, The Norwegian Institute for Eye Health, PhD-candidate, University of Oslo
While Bek followed his family footsteps, he developed a curiosity about information technology (IT) advancements, and how they might impact medicine in the future. In addition, he did not like writing medical records by hand and thought computers would eliminate this need. With this question in mind, he examined the growing speciality of IT in medicine. However, in Uzbekistan in the post-Soviet time, IT was not widely available. Due to lack of resources, Bek had no opportunity to develop IT skills, but remained instilled with a curiosity that wouldn’t subside.
During his last year of medical school, Bek was accepted to the Health Informatics programme and, upon graduation, came directly to KI. During these intense two years, Bek was an engaged student. Quite often after a class, he would contact the lecturer to express his gratitude and interest. He would point out specific aspects that were interesting and beneficial to him, and in certain cases, even offer his help with their projects. During his second semester, his actions paid off and he received an offer to work on an international project on Electronic Health Records (HER) at the Karolinska University Hospital. The project, which took him to Africa, gave him a truly global perspective, which paved the way for future opportunities. “The experience I gained during my years at KI paved the way to everything I achieved so far. The combination of skillsets I possess from both the medical profession and health informatics training was definitely a big plus.” After graduation, Bek returned to Uzbekistan to pursue a specialization in ophthalmology, and then continued his training in India where he focused on eye surgery, before eventually starting a PhD at the University of Oslo.
"It is impossible to imagine modern medicine without health informatics tools." - Bek Tashbayev
Currently the balancing roles as the Director of Development and Ophthalmologist at The Norwegian Institute for Eye Health, and as a PhD-candidate, University of Oslo, Bek combines clinical work and research. “Depending on the schedule, I see patients at the clinic and work on my PhD project. We try to find diagnostic biomarkers of xerostomia (dry mouth) and dry eye disease by analyzing clinical data and tear/saliva samples from hundreds of patients. Dry eye disease has negative impacts on quality of life of patients, and accurate diagnosis remains a challenge due to multifactorial nature of the disease.”
As Director of Development, his main responsibilities include designing new IT solutions that increase efficiency at the clinic, which draw highly on his knowledge from KI’s Health Informatics programme. Reflecting on his experiences, “It is impossible to imagine modern medicine without health informatics tools. Having skills in this area gives one the competitive edge in all aspects of medicine. I feel so lucky to receive an education and degree from KI.”
When asked what drives him, Bek humbly replies “Having an impact to eliminate blindness worldwide through expertise, research and leadership. And being able to help reduce suffering in my patients, today and in the future.” Ultimately, he aims to return to Stockholm and work as an ophthalmologist and researcher at KI. “St. Erik’s Eye Hospital is one of the leading eye hospitals in Europe and its affiliation to KI enables clinicians interested in research to combine both high quality clinical work and research. I hope I will get this opportunity.” In the event of any free time, Bek is an avid reader, favoring biographies of inspiring leaders, and “sometimes, I run marathons”. Certainly, Bek has paved his own path of inspiration for future doctors and health informaticians alike.
Interview with Bek, as told to Megan Osler, KI Alumni, and Radosveta Gencheva, KI student and asst. editor KI alumni office.