UofL to launch healthcare cybersecurity curriculum

By Betty Coffman

The University of Louisville will develop a curriculum to increase cybersecurity talent specifically focused on healthcare thanks to a $6 million in funding from the National Security Agency (NSA). The pilot phase of the Healthcare Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate initially will provide the training for 200 first responders and military veterans in accordance with the request for proposal. The certificate incorporates technology industry badging from Microsoft, IBM and Google as well as hands-on applied learning and gamification components.

UofL will lead the curriculum development and pilot the online program through its Center for Digital Transformation, working with a coalition that includes three other institutions. The project also includes $300,000 in funding for research into security biometrics.

“We understand the need for cybersecurity talent in our healthcare workforce to protect the information systems that patients, providers and payers rely on to deliver quality healthcare,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “We are excited to provide this exceptional opportunity for students to enhance their future career opportunities with cutting-edge skills in a short, six-month timeframe, while increasing security for healthcare data in Louisville and beyond.”

Building on more than a decade of expertise in cybersecurity training, UofL will lead a coalition of schools to develop the curriculum. Each of the schools in the coalition is a NSA-designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense and contributes interests, experience and skills aligned with healthcare cybersecurity systems.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell authored a provision in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act directing the NSA to partner with universities to develop the cybersecurity workforce. Senator McConnell, also a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, then secured the necessary federal funding to make this program possible. Later, the Senator wrote to NSA Director General Paul Nakasone to support UofL’s application and encourage the university’s selection for this prestigious pilot program.

Future-Focused Curricula

The UofL Center for Digital Transformation provides future-focused curricula and educational tools to help train the workforce in fast-growing technology areas by integrating the best features of industry and academic institution relationships. The center will coordinate, develop, manage and monitor the Healthcare Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate program, a two-year project with an option for a third year. Following its development, the curriculum will be made available to other institutions at no charge, increasing the impact of this investment beyond Louisville and Kentucky.

In addition to the certificate program, the project will engage UofL’s engineering research power to develop a new security authentication method using neural network models. Adel Elmaghraby, co-PI for the entire project and professor in the UofL Speed School of Engineering, will lead a collaboration with Mississippi-based, historically black institution Alcorn State University to conduct pioneering research into biometrics. The researchers will investigate whether a person’s computer keystrokes and mouse movements can be used as a sort of digital signature which, along with their username and password, would provide an added layer of cybersecurity.

Certificate program participants will complete the three-level certificate in only six months through online courses led by instructors from coalition institutions, gaining expertise in artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, internet of things (IoT), machine learning and other areas. The curriculum will employ innovative training tools including gamification and make use of anonymous datasets and use cases provided by industry partners, including the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council.

“As our healthcare data environment becomes increasingly complex, it is absolutely critical that patient health information is secure and protected,” said Tammy York Day, LHCC president and CEO. “LHCC is committed to supporting UofL’s efforts to arm the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with the skills they need to ensure that our healthcare data infrastructure is a tool – not a barrier – to empowering patients to be active participants in their own healthcare. This grant from the NSA is one of many LHCC-UofL collaborative efforts designed to support and broaden our healthcare innovation ecosystem, create a strong tech talent pipeline, strengthen and deepen the connections between our corporate and academic communities and invest in Louisville’s success together.”

While the curriculum is focused on the healthcare industry, the skills learned are applicable to multiple industries. During the certificate program, participants will earn industry badges from Google, IBM, Microsoft and others, adding value to certificate completion and providing pathways to additional educational opportunities.

Andrew Wright, assistant professor of computer information systems in the UofL College of Business, will assist in leading the development of the certificate program curriculum. Once developed, the curriculum will be available to other institutions free of charge for one year. The first cohort of 30 to 40 students is expected to be enrolled in spring 2021. Applicants do not need healthcare experience or to be enrolled in a degree program at UofL to complete the certificate, however it can be applied as credit toward some UofL degree programs.

In addition to the Speed School of Engineering and the College of Business, UofL collaborators include faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Education and Human Development, the Department of Health Management in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, the School of Medicine, the Delphi Center and the Office of Research and Innovation.

In its pilot phase, 200 military veterans and first responders will participate in the certificate program free of charge. UofL has achieved Military Friendly School designation for 10 consecutive years.

-Betty Coffman is with the University of Louisville.