About Howard Leslie Bleich, MD

With great sadness, we report on the recent passing away of Howard Leslie Bleich, MD, the co-founder of the Division of Clinical Informatics at BIDMC. Dr. Bleich was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1934 and grew up in Washington, D.C. He was the oldest of three sons, all of whom became doctors. He graduated from George Washington University and then went on to get his medical degree from Emory University. Dr. Bleich arrived at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Hospital in 1967. He was a gifted teacher who started his classes on renal pathophysiology with the question, "who remembers the molecular weight of sodium?" He was on the editorial board of the New England Journal of Medicine and edited the Beth Israel Seminars in Medicine in this journal.

Dr. Bleich is renowned for being a pioneer in a field he initially called "computer medicine." His groundbreaking work to develop a computer-based "Acid-Base Therapy Advisor" is now recognized as a pioneering work in expert systems in medicine. This expert system was the first not only to suggest a diagnosis but also to recommend treatment.

Read the Harvard Medical School Memorial Minute on Dr. Howard Bleich.

In 1970, with the support of Dr. Howard Hyatt, Dr. Bleich recruited Warner Slack, and they co-founded the "Laboratory for Computer Medicine," the first academic division to explore the use of computers in clinical care. In 1976, they were approached by the hospital to computerize the medical record department and then the rest of the hospital except for financial systems.

Dr. Bleich was also a pioneer of the medical information retrieval system. His MISAR system was used by many researchers at Harvard and elsewhere to store and retrieve time-oriented clinical data. The MISAR system is thought to be the basis of FileMan, the basis of the VA information systems. He invented end-user searching of the biomedical literature with the program called "PaperChase."

In 1983, Drs. Bleich and Slack were asked to port the computer system from the Beth Israel Hospital to the Brigham and Women's Hospital. They formed the Center for Clinical Computing and named their system the CCC system, which is still running (although modernized) at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. The system grew to the needs of physicians, nurses, house staff, other hospital personnel, and patients themselves. Howard invented some major technology to make this work, such as a clustered architecture system and a memory-sharing system, long before this technology was commercially available. Dr. Clement H. McDonald, one of the pioneers of medical informatics, noted that Beth Israel developed "one of the world-class best clinical systems of all times. It was one of the most reliable, most loved, most comprehensive. It was the Toyota of clinical systems. "

Dr. Bleich's work has transformed clinical care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and around the world. Accolades for Dr. Bleich's contributions have come in from colleagues from many leaders and pioneers of the field worldwide. You can add your comments to this page.

We are thankful for his contributions and will be organizing a celebratory event in the next few months to celebrate his lifetime of achievements.

To donate in memory of Dr. Bleich, please send your donation to the BIDMC Office of Development and make note that you want your gift to go toward the Dr. Howard Bleich memorial fund.

We are thankful for his contributions and will be organizing a celebratory event in the next few months to celebrate his lifetime of achievements. For more information, contact Dr. Yuri Quintana, Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics, at yquintan@bidmc.harvard.edu.

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