This month we talk to Dr Charmaine Tam, Senior Research Fellow and Project Manager for the SPEED-EXTRACT project.
Can you please tell us about a day in your life?
A typical day starts with getting my kids and I ready to go to daycare. I then head to the Centre for Translational Data Science or one of the teaching hospitals such as Royal North Shore Hospital or The Children’s Hospital at Westmead usually while listening to a true crime or data science podcast. I am currently a Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical and Health Informatics at Northern Clinical School. My work involves leading cross-functional teams to harness insights from the rich and diverse data housed within electronic medical records.
My day starts with a daily stand up with the team where I catch up with research engineers and data scientists on the data analysis that has been performed so far and what will be done that day. I often liaise with clinicians and other staff within hospitals to gain a better understanding of the workflow for the data captured within electronic medical records. This could be as diverse as understanding how patients are triaged into hospital, examining clinical notes to develop an algorithm for identifying symptoms captured in free text or understanding the different types of patient journeys that occur in hospital. I then might have a code design or review meeting followed by a presentation of our team’s results to the broader stakeholder group. This includes government stakeholders, clinicians, professors in digital health as well as software engineers and data scientists. My experience in clinical research and coding lends itself to very much that of an analytics translator, communicating between specialists in health, engineering and data science. This ensures that insights from the burgeoning amount of digital health data are best utilised to lead to improvements in human health and that academic pursuit is aligned with health priority, within appropriate governance and privacy safeguards.
How do you define digital health?
To me, digital health is the coming together of digital technologies with health, health care and personal well-being. Digital health utilises technology to improve personal health and wellness as well as enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery across the human lifespan.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
- Individual and organisational courage, commitment and investment to doing things differently and to pioneer change
- Openness to learning by appreciating individual skillsets and allowing creativity to occur
- Relentless optimism and persistence when challenges arise
- Clear and effective communication across diverse disciplines from software engineering, statistics and data science to specialist health fields
- Clinician involvement and wide spread engagement across the organisation with willingness to discover answers that may fall outside traditional areas of expertise
- High performing teams who trust each other and who are in a safe environment to fail, in order to learn from mistakes and try again
- Leadership that is inspiring, thoughtful, leads by example and maximises potential in all individuals
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
I have been surprised by the appetite for which people want to improve their current way of working and their openness to share learnings and knowledge. My experience in health has found that knowledge tends to exist in silos and is highly specialised. At the same time there is an incredible hunger and enthusiasm to liberate and integrate existing data sources and to work together to develop insights which will improve the health system. The value of data is realised only when information is converted into actionable knowledge which enables improvements in patient health outcomes, health care efficiency and minimises low value care.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about?
Attending meet ups is an easy way to meet and network with colleagues outside of your domain area. There are meet ups for health data analytics, data science, natural language processing, data engineering as well as many of the programming languages.
Connect with Charmaine:
A big thank you to Charmaine for being our October member profile.