Five Years of Growth

April 22, 2021

As she prepares for the next phase of her academic career, Duke Forge Scholar Brinnae Bent, PhD, looks back on her time at Duke and her work in the fast-growing field of digital health.


Nearly 2 years ago, I wrote an introductory blog post for Duke Forge titled “Wearables, Mobile Health, and a Healthcare Revolution.” In it, discussed the potential for personalizing medicine using data from wearables, mobile sensors, and electronic health records (EHRs). As a newly minted Forge predoctoral scholar, I was excited to contribute to the Forge community.

Two years later, the world looks a bit different! The COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered digital health and telemedicine and there is rapidly growing interest in personalized medicine. New devices and sensors, combined with advances in data science and machine learning, are enabling digital medicine studies spanning disease states. And I have recently defended my dissertation on “Discovering Digital Biomarkers of Glycemic Health from Wearable Sensors.”

Group photograph of participants in the Banff International Research Station Workshop on the Use of Wearable and Implantable Devices in Health Research.
The Banff International Research Station Workshop on the Use of Wearable and Implantable Devices in Health Research

As I come to the end of my graduate studies (and my time as a Forge predoctoral scholar), I wanted to write a letter of reflection and gratitude to Duke Forge.

First, I would like to reflect upon the incredible advances made in the field of digital and personalized medicine during the time I’ve been in the PhD program at Duke. Over the past 5 years, the number of scientific papers on the topic of “personalized medicine” indexed in PubMed has more than doubled, from 28,580 prior to 2016 to today’s 61,741. We also see steep increases in indexed papers on “digital medicine” (from 16,303 to 20,658) and “digital health” (from 12,032 to 21,981).*

During this same period, Duke Forge was established to “create innovative approaches to the fusion of biostatistics and machine learning, implementing the insights gained into patient care and leveraging digital information to enable healthy living and disease prevention.” In addition, the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe Society) was created to identify best practices and develop new standards in digital medicine, and I have led development of the Digital Biomarker Discovery Pipeline (dbdp.org), an open-source software resource to make digital medicine and digital biomarker research more accessible. All of these advances in this space are helping to move the field toward the ultimate goal of transforming digital health data into actionable health insights.

Second, I’d like to express my thanks to the entire team at Duke Forge for their support and encouragement throughout my time as a Forge predoctoral scholar. Every single interaction I have had with the Duke Forge team has been uplifting. I have enjoyed attending Forge events and being a part of such an incredibly collaborative community.

I would also like to specifically acknowledge a few people in particular. Victoria Christian has been supportive from the very first time I met her (during interviews!) and she consistently inspires me with her enthusiasm for this field. Jonathan McCall has given me a voice through the Duke Forge blog and I am incredibly grateful to him and the entire Duke Forge Communications team for highlighting my papers, blogs, and news in the Duke Forge Weekly Roundup. Finally, Dr. Amy Herring has been such an incredible mentor to me during my time with Forge. In addition to lively discussions about research, she gave me the opportunity to help develop a case study for a class she teaches this past year, which was very rewarding. Dr. Herring also recommended me for a workshop at the Banff International Research Station, which has been one of the best experiences I have had in graduate school.

I have grown along with the field of digital medicine over the course of my PhD program, and this growth has been shaped by being a part of the incredible Duke Forge community. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to be a part of this program.

Thank you to all of you!

Ice caves in Banff, Canada (Dr. Amy Herring far right; Brinnae Bent second from right)
Ice caves in Banff, Canada (Dr. Amy Herring far right, Brinnae Bent second from right)

*PubMed data as of 3/22/2021