Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Journey to Geography

People often ask me what drew me into a career involving maps.  Of course I took social studies classes in grade school to learn basic geography and I had to study and understand the maps that were parts of history lessons, but I never took a dedicated geography class. It was actually just a serendipitous event; during my long, self-funded path through graduate school, I took a job to help pay the bills.  

I was a research assistant on a grant given by a funding organization that wanted to make better funding decisions.  They wanted to be able to look at data for traditional geographies that did not fit into US Census Bureau geographies.  Most publicly-available health data do conform to these geopolitical boundaries such as census tracts, counties and states.  So there were two massive undertakings (both of which pre-dated my involvement in the project): 1) using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), create the boundaries of these traditional neighborhoods, and 2) collect data from the people in each neighborhood to learn what their health needs/ concerns were.

Once the data were collected and mapped, the funder could then evaluate funding proposals based on neighborhood need.  For example, if an agency was seeking funding to start a maternal and child health clinic Downtown, the funder could reference their geographic data and to assess whether maternal and child health was a major issue for the people in the neighborhood.  If not, they could see for which neighborhood it was a major issue and then go back to the agency and let them know the original proposal would not be funded, but if they wanted to focus on HIV/ AIDS in Downtown for example, the proposal would be stronger and more likely to be funded.  Or if the agency really wanted to focus on maternal and child health, the need for those services was greatest in the West End.  The concept fascinated me and once I taught myself how to use GIS, I was hooked. The project itself has morphed into a data center that serves all of southeast Louisiana (

I’ve been lucky to stay connected to geography throughout my career in health policy, although it wasn’t always easy.  My career has gone from using maps to show locations of health care providers to building online tools that help people navigate the health care system to now managing a portfolio of online mapping tools that democratize data and allow thousands of people do the same kind analyses on the fly that I was doing in graduate school using population health, health workforce and user-provided data.  

Come to one of our upcoming webinars to get hooked on mapping!

Jennifer Rankin
Senior Manager, Product and Resource Services 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

GIS and! is a social networking website designed for anyone in search of something to do, learn, interact with, and get involved in the community with like-minded people. You can find a meetup in just about any major metropolitan city including Washington, D.C., one of the leading utilizers of the site.

You can find anything from hiking and rock climbing to speed dating to national park tours to Python programming workshops. Other popular meetup topics include happy hours, single-mom coffee meetings, running clubs, and seminars and conferences.

There are several GIS/geography meetup groups that tailor to the working DC professional, including Esri DC Meet Ups and Geo DC. The former is a group put on by staff at the local Esri R&D center in Arlington, Virginia which showcases new cloud, web, and mobile technologies related to Esri products. To those interested, these meetups consist of talks, lectures, and hands-on learning sessions. Recent topics have included, “Drones and GIS – a Powerful Combination”, “Maps Bring Your Story to Life”, and “Geospatial Technology for Fraud Analytics”.

The second GIS related DC meetup group is called Geo DC. This group is for GIS professionals of all levels and interests and meets once a month for lightning talks and networking. Unlike the Esri DC Meet Ups group, Geo DC tends to cover open source technologies as well as Esri products. The monthly meetings are held at a local bar for a few hours and host an average of 90+ participants. The meetings start with introductions, and then lead into several lightning talks and demonstrations. Afterwards, it turns into a networking social. Recent meeting topics have covered “#Maps: social media and mapping”, “OpenStreetMap: June GeoDC”, and “November GeoDC: Geo Policy”.

Dave Grolling 
GIS Strategist

Monday, January 11, 2016

Introducing our GIS Strategist

We’re starting off 2016 by welcoming Dave Grolling to the HealthLandscape team. Dave will be taking on the role of GIS Strategist, working with our geospatial data and services. Dave is a graduate of the Master of Professional Studies in GIS program, at the University of Maryland. He completed his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at SUNY Brockport. In his undergraduate studies, he completed a student research project, interviewing patients in two hospital emergency departments to investigate ER over-utilization.

He brings a great combination of intellectual curiosity and technical skills (including ESRI ArcGIS Software, SAS, SQL, and Javascript). Dave is already diving into multiple projects his first week with HealthLandscape and we’re very excited to have him on board. Welcome, Dave!

Jené Grandmont
Senior Manager, Application Development and Data Services