Iain Buchan is a public health physician and data scientist working to harness large-scale data and digital innovation for patients and populations.
As the inaugural W.H. Duncan Professor of Public Health Systems and Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Innovation, he is leading around £25m of research and associated strategic partnerships between the University, NHS, local government and industry partners. Recently, he led Liverpool's Institute of Population Health and world-first responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iain trained in medicine in the 1980s, intercalating in pharmacology and writing statistical software. As a junior doctor in the 1990s he also pursued research into care pathways, health system dynamics and care inequities. He then trained as a public health consultant while researching medical informatics and completing a doctoral studies in computational statistics.
From 2003-17, he built one of the UK's most successful health informatics research groups at the University of Manchester, attracting over £150m in grants, an MRC centre (Health e-Research Centre) and the forerunner of the UK’s national health data research organisation. In 2017/18 he took a year out with Microsoft Research working on AI strategy for health and care. Since 2019, he has generated around £50m research and innovation activity in Liverpool and delivered world-leading scientific responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ahead of the pandemic, he established the world's first Civic Data Cooperative as a social engine for data-driven resilience and evolution of health & care systems. A concept he then fast-tracked in response to Covid-19 as Combined Intelligence for Population Health Action (CIPHA), delivering: the world’s first understanding of voluntary, open-access rapid antigen testing for people without symptoms of Covid-19; the first realistic, risk-mitigated experimental reopening of mass cultural events; and the flagship demonstrator site for the UK Mental Health Mission - the Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre (M-RIC).
Iain has delivered digital innovations for health systems since the 1990s. He originated the impactful Connected Health Cities project and drove the #DataSavesLives movement, paving the way for the data-sharing now needed to develop England's Integrated Care Systems. He conceived e-Labs and Research Objects - designs that now underpin widespread Trustworthy Research Environments or Secure Data Environments for health data research. To advance clinical trials informatics, he conceived patented methods and co-founded the NW eHealth spin-out. He conceived the health avatar for interactive predictive healthcare and drives a network of methodology to help advance predictive care for patients and populations.
He drives interdisciplinary problem-solving: e.g., biostatistical and machine learning approaches for discovering disease endotypes, with notable discoveries before the methodology became popular. He pursues social epidemiology, with notable papers on England’s geographical disparities in wealth, mortality, morbidity, and public investment. Through his NHS roles, he is now driving a "Data into Action" programme to evolve public health research from just describing inequality to programming equity.
Iain is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, the American College of Medical Informatics, and the Faculty of Clinical Informatics, and NIHR Senior Investigator. In 2022, he was awarded the Alwyn-Smith medal by the Faculty of Public Health. In 2023, he was awarded the Florence Nightingale prize by the Royal Statistical Society.