Mining medical data for kids
By Marianne Meadahl
New technologies are churning out enormous quantities of complex medical data that are providing fertile ground for researchers like Samar Al-Hajj.
The PhD student is applying her skills in visual analytics to help health professionals and policy makers improve child and youth injury-prevention approaches in Canada.
Visual analytics (VA) is an emerging field that uses computers to analyze and visually convey massive amounts of data in a form that people can more readily understand.
That information is particularly useful to decision-makers in increasingly data-intensive sectors such as health care, transportation and public safety.
Working in the B.C. Children’s Hospital Child & Family Research Institute’s developmental neurosciences and child health research department, Al-Hajj is designing an interactive VA system dashboard.
The dashboard will support decision-making for the Canadian Child and Youth Injury prevention program.
The goal is to help health professionals and policy makers interactively explore and analyze complex injury indicators data and make informed and timely decisions that will ultimately lead to improved child and youth injury-prevention methods, says Al-Hajj.
Her skills are also helping immunologists and biomedical researchers to better understand what immunological data can say about the causes of morbidity and mortality among HIV-exposed but uninfected infants in Cape Town, South Africa. Al-Hajj’s HIV research netted her the Discovery Exhibition Student Award at the 2011 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference on visual analytics science and technology.
Originally from Lebanon, Al-Hajj worked for more than five years in health information systems at various overseas and local hospitals and research centres before arriving at SFU professor Brian Fisher’s SCIENCE lab.
They include the B.C. Cancer Agency, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Saudi Arabia and the Hamad Medical Corporation in Qatar.