Syed Sibte Raza Abidi, Professor and Director of Health Informatics, Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia)
How long have you been a member of Digital Health Canada
Why do you want to join the Digital Health Canada Board of Directors at this point in your career?
As a digital health innovator, academic and practitioner, for over 20 years, I had the opportunity to engage and demonstrate to industry, health professionals, entrepreneurs and policy makers the art-of-the-possible with regards to innovative digital health solutions to improve our healthcare system. The mission of Digital Health Canada is transformational, pragmatic and impactful; I believe in its activities as they are geared towards building a knowledgeable, connected and empowered digital health community in Canada. My motivation to join the board is to bring my expertise, experience and outreach to advance digital health innovation, education, professionalism and community of practice under the auspices of Digital Health Canada. For the past 2 years, I have had the privilege of serving on the Digital Health Canada Board. I am seeking re-election to the board, for an additional 2 year term, to keep the momentum going in terms of moving the dial on digital health innovation, education and professional development in Canada. During my tenure as a board member, I have advocated for strategic plans to (a) promote digital health innovation such that our innovations can actually become mainstream healthcare products/services, (b) empower emerging professionals to become digital health leaders as they are the future drivers of Canada’s digital health agenda, (c) engage academics, researchers and students so that they bring their knowledge and expertise to the digital health community, and (d) reach out to government agencies, professional bodies and funding organizations to seek their support to promote and recognize digital health as both a scientific discipline and a professional entity. I want to continue serving on the board as I want to consolidate the four issues mentioned above. Also, I want to continue serving on the board as I want to ensure that the board is best positioned to provide specialized programs to help its members embrace emerging technologies, such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, block chain, robotics, smart homes, ambient living, smart cities, etc. Given my expertise and experience with the innovation and application of novel computing technologies in healthcare, my motivation is to formulate digital health innovation programs, platforms and policies to help Canadian digital health practitioners and healthcare organizations to embrace these emerging and transformative technologies. As I visit healthcare institutions and forums around the world, especially in Europe and Asia, I have seen how national digital health organizations are positioning themselves to impact their health system. I strongly believe that in the prevailing competitive global environment, Canada needs to further strengthen and enhance digital health innovation and its apt implementation at a national level; I feel that I can contribute to the promotion of innovation-based digital health in Canada. I want to continue serving on the board because, so that I can further contribute to Digital health Canada’s mission of establishing strategic linkages with emerging professionals, educational institutions, research communities, and government organizations to develop a vibrant digital health eco-system in Canada. I am excited about the impact Digital Health Canada can make to our healthcare system. Therefore, I want to be part of this transformational mission and exercise my vision, energy, expertise and experience to impact the utility and efficacy of digital health in Canada.
How does your experience align with the Digital Health Canada strategic plan and mandate?
Digital Health Canada’s strategic mandate is to connect Canadian digital health community, incubate knowledge and advocate for digital health solutions to accelerate positive changes to the Canadian healthcare system. My digital health experience and expertise as a practitioner, educator, researcher, advocate and innovator is directly aligned with Digital Health Canada’s strategic mandate. For over 20 years, I have been an active advocate of and contributor to the digital health program in Canada. Digital health research and innovation is an important element in making Canada a world leader in digital health technologies and services. In this regard, I have extensive research based experience of development and implementation of innovative digital health solutions for a range of healthcare stakeholders. My experience and expertise covers both digital technology and healthcare, thereby I am able to contribute innovative digital health solutions for physicians, patients, consumers and decision makers. My experience directly aligns with Digital Health Canada’s mandate, whereby I have successfully (a) connected innovative digital health solutions with the healthcare system, and digital health professionals with health practitioners; (b) bridged the gap between issues and solutions, and in doing so have established concrete functional connections between digital health initiatives and the Canadian healthcare system; (c) developed and incubated digital health knowledge in terms of innovative solutions and services for ‘big’ health data analytics for health system optimization, precision medicine, personalized health, clinical decision support, patient empowerment, and virtual care; and (d) advocated the utility and effectiveness of digital health by training hundreds of digital health practitioners, demonstrating innovative digital health solutions at various national and international conferences and forums.
What unique skills, perspectives and contributions would you bring to the Digital Health Canada Board?
My broad experience of innovation, education and advocacy will enable me to significantly contribute to the board’s activities in advancing the digital health mission in terms of capacity building, knowledge translation, community building and thought leadership. I am a digital health innovator, educator and hands-on practitioner with an outcome-oriented outlook. I offer the unique blending of scientific discovery, solution development, capacity building, data analytics and evaluation skills that manifest in my digital health research, education and advocacy. The perspective I bring to the board is lifetime health for all—i.e. the development and application of innovative digital health technologies to provide personalized, persistent, proactive and protocol-driven healthcare services targeting both healthcare practitioners and patients/consumers to improve health outcomes. My perspective aligns with the strategic mission of Digital Health Canada in terms of building a digital health community for both disease prevention and health promotion. Through my experience and knowledge I can help the board in programming for niche areas, such as artificial intelligence based data analytics, virtual care, decision support, predictive analytics, personalized health and health system optimization. Given my background, I believe that I will contribute as (a) an interface between health informatics educational institutions and industry to formulate specialized capacity building programs mandated by Digital Health Canada; (b) as an advocate to establish strategic collaborations between the Digital Health Canada and government organizations such as Health Canada, CIHR and NSERC to develop digital health innovation funding programs that benefits industry, healthcare institutions and research groups; (c) a mentor to emerging professionals and entrepreneurs; (d) demonstrator of digital health innovations; (e) an author of digital health blueprint and white papers; and (f) promoter of Digital Health Canada’s vision and achievements at international health research and policy forums (which I frequently attend). I believe that my skills, perspectives and contributions will make Digital Health Canada even more visible and effective in driving health system transformation in Canada.
Do you or have or have you ever had any direct patient care experience (clinical)?
I work with health professionals who administer patient care. My experience with patient care is in terms of research studies involving patients and patient care. This indirect patient care experience has exposed me to a number of gaps and solution opportunities within our healthcare system by engaging industry, leaders, patient advocates, institutions and health professionals
What segments within the Digital Health Canada community do you feel you will best represent? Select all that apply.
Emerging Professionals, Leaders, Academic & Research, Healthcare Institutions, National eHealth Organizations, Digital Health Entrepreneurs
With which Digital Health Canada committees, task groups or activities have you volunteered in past five years? Describe your most significant contributions to Digital Health Canada’s mission.
Over the past 5 years, I have worked with the academic alliance and various capacity building initiatives. Furthermore, as a current board member, I have contributed to the development of the strategic plan for 2020-2023. My main contributions to Digital Health Canada’s mission has been digital health training and mentoring of health informatics professionals, demonstration of digital health innovations as implemented in the healthcare system, and strategic thinking/planning for the advancement and implementation of digital health solutions in the Canadian healthcare system. In addition, I have been an active presenter at e-Health conferences. As an advocate for emerging professionals and research based digital health innovation, lately, I have been working with Digital Health Canada to (a) develop mechanisms to better empower emerging professionals; (b) bring a research perspective to digital health programming and publications; and (c) targeted training opportunities about emerging themes and technologies for both students and professionals.
What other board appointments or relevant leadership experiences have you had in the past five years?
I am a Board Member of the International Association of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. I serve as member of Health Canada’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Digital Health Technologies (special focus on artificial intelligence in healthcare). I have served as Program Committee Member for over 20 digital health research conferences, where I help to formulate the conference’s agenda, review the articles and help organize the sessions. I have regularly provided expert input to digital health discussions and polices at the provincial and national levels. I am the Director of Health Informatics where I lead the academic programming and promotion of digital health through different research and academic programs. I am the director and scientific lead of the NICHE research group. Finally, I hold a cross-appointment as Professor of Medicine at Dalhousie University. I am a reviewer for both national and international digital health research programs and proposals.
Please tell us why you feel Digital Health Canada members should vote for you.
I believe that Digital Health Canada’s members should consider voting for me because as an experienced and internationally recognized digital health academic, researcher, practitioner, advocate and innovator, I bring a unique mind-set, knowledge, passion, skills and experience that will further broaden and enhance the contribution of Digital Health Canada to the Canadian healthcare system. I bring to Digital Health Canada extensive national and international digital health innovation, capacity building, implementation and advocacy experience, together with vast collaborations with industry, academia, healthcare institutions, government R&D agencies, international health organizations and research groups. Over 20 years, I have worked on the front-lines with healthcare providers and decision-makers, and in the backroom workshops with health informatics trainees, system analysts, IT developers and health informatics professionals to design, develop and operationalize innovative digital health solutions for health data analytics, precision medicine, clinical decision support, patient empowerment, ambient living and health system optimization. My all-encompassing view of digital health will be beneficial to the diverse interests of the members of Digital health Canada. I believe that Digital Health Canada’s members should vote for me because during my long career, as an outcomes-oriented professional, I have successfully executed complex and large-scale digital health projects that required interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborations. I will bring this experience to the board to help advocate the art of the possible to healthcare stakeholders, and to convey the utility, efficacy and benefits of innovative digital health solutions to the Canadian public and healthcare organizations. I believe that Digital Health Canada’s members should vote for me as a board member of Digital Health Canada because given my passion, vision, experience and expertise I am well positioned to serve the Canadian digital health community by initiating and leading a debate about the following initiatives: (1) Promotion of digital health innovation by establishing a digital health innovation resource (akin to an incubator and connector forum) to mentor and promote emerging professionals and entrepreneurs so that they can bring their ideas and innovations to fruition. (2) Establishing a tri-party interface between digital health industry, digital health innovation centers/researchers and government funding programs to help the members of Digital Health Canada to better align with Health Canada’s priorities and professional capacity needs. (3) Developing mentoring and support mechanisms to help members access R&D funding offered by government funding agencies through a unique collaboration between the health practitioners and policy-makers, digital health practitioners (industry and researchers) and the digital health educational programs. (4) Engaging and informing the Canadian public about the activities and impact of Digital Health Canada towards modernizing our healthcare system. I envision Digital Health Canada as a validated resource for seeking assistance in consumer health application design, evaluation and certification. Consumer/public advocacy of digital health with respect to the changing trends in healthcare thinking is important and needs to be embraced by Digital Health Canada. (5) Building digital health capacity by developing the right and relevant digital health educational programs to help train a digital health workforce that is competent to respond to the industry needs, health professional’s demands and priorities of our healthcare system.
Do you currently hold the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems – Canada (CPHIMS-CA) credential?
What is your educational background? Please list all degrees and designations.
I hold a PhD in Computer Science, Masters in Computer Engineering and Bachelors degree in Electronic Engineering. I am Professor of Computer Science, Professor of Medicine, Director of Health Informatics, Director of NICHE Research Group
Please include a brief biography including highlights of experience and expertise in health informatics/digital health.
Syed Sibte Raza Abidi is Director of Health Informatics, Professor of Computer Science and Medicine at Dalhousie University, Halifax. He holds a PhD and Masters in computer science. He has been involved with digital health academics, innovation, advocacy and policy-making for over 20 years. He is the board member of (a) Digital Health Canada, and (b) International Association of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. Dr. Abidi is the scientific director of the NICHE (kNowledge Intensive Computing for Healthcare Enterprises) research group, and leads R&D activities that have led to a range of innovative digital health solutions. He is a digital health innovator, who has developed and deployed a range of innovative digital health systems in healthcare organization both within Canada and globally. His has expertise in artificial intelligence, health data analytics, precision medicine, personalized health, clinical decision support, patient empowerment, and mobile health. Dr. Abidi is the recipient of the CHIA’s leadership in health informatics award (2016), the prestigious International Award for Innovation in Medical Informatics (awarded at World Expo in Hannover, Germany), Research Excellence Award and six (6) best paper awards. Dr. Abidi is an experienced digital health academic and practitioner who has trained over 750 health informaticians, published over 250 scientific papers, supervised over 80 graduate students, secured scientific research grants over $17 million from healthcare organizations, government and industry, delivered over 85 invited talks and developed over 50 innovative digital health systems. He has extensive international digital health experience and has collaboratively developed several digital health systems in different countries. He provides expert consultation regarding digital health project review, planning, implementation and policy, both within Canada and globally. He is regularly invited to speak about digital health vision and innovation, role of digital health in healthcare systems, and capacity building programs for digital health. He has organized several digital health conferences and is an expert reviewer for international and national digital health projects.