IHPME Research Day: Connecting to the Future

April 2, 2018

Each year students, faculty and alumni descend upon IHPME to participate in the largest student-led conference of the year, Research Day. For this year’s event taking place on May 2, co-chairs Mélissa Roy and Saerom Youn, along with their committee, have chosen a theme that will explore the ways in which big data and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to transform our health care system.

Research Day Committee
Research Day Committee, 2018

Whether you are a presenter or simply an attendee, Research Day is a pinnacle event in the academic year. Students from across the nine different programs present on their research through oral and poster sessions, and an expert panel of industry leaders as well as a keynote speaker, delve into the theme of the conference.

“Research Day provides an opportunity to engage with research in a different way, and being aware of what others are working on can trigger further innovation or inspiration,” said Roy, who is a second year MSc candidate in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research.

Roy is also a surgeon scientist in training, and when not at one of the Toronto area hospitals, she is focused on her Master’s dissertation where she is studying the health literacy of a sub population of hand surgery patients. Limited health literacy can impact delivery of care and health outcomes, and part of her research considers what clinicians can do when confronted with patients who have limited health literacy.  It is another reason that she believes strongly in the concept of translational research.

“Research needs to be shared in order for it to have the greatest impact,” said Roy, “and Research Day is another space where we can we become informed about what others are working on.”

Co-Chair Youn agrees, “This event provides students with an opportunity to have their work be discovered by faculty or industry professionals, and it is also a way to prepare yourself in advance for other major conferences you might attend in your academic career.”

A second year MSc candidate in Health Services Research, Youn has participated in school activities before but nothing as directly involved with her degree as coordinating Research Day. In her first year at IHPME, Youn joined the Research Day committee to gain some experience and make new connections, “I remember being inspired by the previous co-chairs,” she said, “they really created a communal atmosphere for all of the students and were driven by no other motivation than to simply make this conference a good day for students.”

Youn is also eager to delve into this year’s theme, big data and artificial intelligence. Her own research centers around development of a tool for knowledge users to better interpret evidence from poor quality nonrandomized studies.

“I had this mini epiphany when I realized I could do so much in an area I never thought I would be interested in with respect to health care, which includes statistics and AI,” said Youn. “Toronto has become a hot-bed for ML/AI related ventures, and there is support from both the government and the industry to make Toronto the AI hub of the world,” she added.

“It is also an area of research that not every student may be exposed to in their program of study,” said Roy.

The hope is that students will gain some new insight into the many opportunities that big data and AI may provide for their own research and the health system as a whole. Perhaps even consider the methods used by the advances in this type of technology and apply techniques and skills that will be sought after in the future.

With two new initiatives to further engage students, including a new student welcome breakfast and a meet our graduates networking mixer, this year’s Research Day is focused on providing students with a  platform to seek out mentors and find opportunities with potential employers.

“It’s easy to get lost in the drudgery of academia, and forget that being part of a graduate program can also build a sense of community,” said Youn.

Students interested in presenting at this year’s conference have until April 9 to submit their abstracts. Guidelines for both oral and poster presentations are available on the IHPME website.

“My advice to all IHPME students would be don’t be shy to share your work,” said Roy, “we are here to learn and learn from each other, and Research Day provides an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.”