Julia Zarb is a digital health and AI communicator, strategist, innovator, and advisor with 25 years in the private, public, and commercial sectors. Working via 32 organizations and 200+ partnerships, Julia has brought myriad data-driven technologies into US and Canadian health/life science ecosystems. Specializing in health informatics strategy, marketing, and business development, Julia’s 11 years on corporate executive teams resulted in a #3 US EHR Brand position. Her Zarb Consulting firm lifted market share for retained clients including, Allscripts, American College of Cardiology, Partners/Harvard, Siemens Healthcare, Nuance, and Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Active in Washington, DC, in the early days of health informatics, Julia co-founded the Electronic Health Record Vendor Association (HIMSS EHRA); HIMSS, HL7 & IHE Interoperability Collaborative; and National Health IT Week. Julia has served twice in federal crisis response efforts requiring rapid virtualization: HIMSS Katrina Phoenix Advisory Board; CanCOVID (Academic and Managing Director; Health Canada, ISED). She led the Rapid Evidence Access Link (REAL) Knowledge as a Service platform. At the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, she has delivered hundreds of lectures in class and conferences on digital health strategy, informatics, and AI. Serving 8 years as a professor and 5 years as Director of the Master of Health Informatics, she has proudly launched careers of 350 graduates. She received awards for local and international expansion. Julia is on the Victoria College Board of Regents, UofT. She holds a PhD in communications, UofT, 2001.
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?
My career spans 25 years of impassioned belief, for better and for worse, that digital health enables better health and care systems. I regard the Digital Health Canada Board of Directors as a collaborative leadership forum where I can render lessons learned useful. I’ve worked broad and deep across private and public sectors in Canada and the US, and I want to roll up my sleeves with other leaders to bring digital health into its best-grounded use within the shifting complexities of Canadian healthcare. For years I’ve been urging students to take brave steps in contribution, and it is time for me to ‘walk that talk’ and do the same.
How does your experience align with the Digital Health Canada strategic plan and mandate?
My experience over the last 7 years in leading the Master of Health Informatics (MHI) program at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, has demonstrated my capacity to empower individuals, share knowledge, and lead an ethos of life-long learning. My contribution in this role has included the launch of the Master of Health Informatics Executive professional program; expansion of the student base by ~80 %, and an increase of applications by 150% since 2015. I oversaw the faculty recruitment of ~25 top informatics, health AI, and digitally focused health leaders.The programs have an estimated post-grad professional role hiring rate ~95% within 3 months. In this role, I was able to assure 100% continuity to graduation during COVID. For approximately 350 graduates,I’ve been a coach, mentor, mentor, and advisor. I’ve supervised more than a hundred capstone and professional projects based on my own consulting frameworks. I’ve worked with students I’ve worked with students from concept to launch of a ‘MHI AI Knowledge Base;’ a repository of curricular AI elements; a student AI Roadmap; and a pipeline to curate new AI knowledge via multiple users. I’ve worked as a connector and facilitator to unify professional voices in national settings. Highlights include:
- Diverse work in bridging private, consumer, and public sector stakeholders via model design, sponsor agreements, use cases, pilots, ‘sandbox’ innovations.
- Managing Director of CanCOVID network of 2,500 transdisciplinary scientists and researchers relaying evidence to provincial and federal decision makers per 1.4m Health Canada & Ministry of Industry grant. •
- ‘HIMSS National Health IT Week.’ Architect & Lead; Steering Committee Chair; Work with 21st Century Healthcare Caucus, House and Senate leaders. Design of ‘Interoperability Collaborative’ (HIMSS/IHE/HL7). ‘HIMSS Electronic Health Record Vendors’ Association’ co-founder, executive, DC representative. ‘National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative.’ Architect & Lead. Delivery partners Google and Microsoft.
- Built reimbursement product Botox ® Assist from concept to launch. Ranked in the top 8 priority projects for Allergan.
- HIMSS EHR Vendors’ Association ‘EHR Interoperability Roadmap, 2006.’ Siemens EHR horizons whitepaper & other Playbooks.
What unique skills, perspectives and contributions would you bring to the Digital Health Canada Board?
My perspective is consistently set on how to leverage digital technologies and processes to advance micro, meso, and macro levels of health equity, access, advocacy and literacy. I have strong professional relationships across Canadian academic, provider, government, consulting, and patient communities. I am skilled at assessing and advising on complex healthcare landscapes, including the identification of disruptive signals on the horizon. My STEM to STEAM perspective gives me skill at surfacing unique Canadian healthcare and cultural issues, and strategically advising on the opportunities and undercurrents in the national market. I’ve had a career-long focus on interpreting, translating, and demystifying digital health to help understand how, when and why stakeholders embrace progress but resist change. I’m a seasoned facilitator with capabilities to bridge Canadian, US, and international dialogues and strategies. My strongest capability of collaboration draws on decades of work in developing means and methods to bring disparate perspectives together in the interests of mitigating the shared ‘wicked problems’ of healthcare.
Do you or have or have you ever had any direct patient care experience (clinical)?
I am not a clinician.
What segments within the Digital Health Canada community do you feel you will best represent? Select all that apply.
- Emerging Professionals
- 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.
My work over many years has supported the Digital Health Canada mission to “connect, inspire, and empower digital health professionals who are creating the future of health in Canada.” I’ve researched and delivered eHealth Conference papers focussed on empowering digital health professionals:
- “Nothing Artificial About it: Preparing Health Informatics Professionals to make AI Happen.” eHealth Conference Virtual Pop-up, 2020
- “The Role of Health Informatics Professionals in Making AI Happen.” eHealth Conference 2019
- “Striking a Balance: Theory vs. Applied Practice in HI Education.” eHealth Conference 2018
- “Applied and Academic Education in Health Informatics” (with E. Seto);
- “Evaluation of Health Informatics Professional Education.” eHealth Conference 2017
- “We’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe?” (with E. Seto, M.Li and S. Gharbi). eHealth Conference 2017
- “Fix Strategy to Fit Healthcare.” 2016 eHealth Conference 2016 I was lead of a working group to connect academic program stakeholders to improve the suitability and sustainability of academic curricula in the field. •
- OACH CDWG (now Digital Health Canada) Academic Community of Action lead to revise ‘Health Informatics Education in Canada: Landscape of an Emerging Academic Discipline.’ (paused) I brought our program to the Digital Health audience with a dedicated Master of Health Informatics booth exhibit, 2016-2019. In this effort, I engaged students and faculty in recruiting through an ‘Ask MHI?’ campaign to interact with and encourage attendees interested in the field.
What other board appointments or relevant leadership experiences have you had in the past five years?
Over the past five years I’ve been honoured to serve as follows:
- Evidence Synthesis Table, Research Evidence, Analytics and Evaluation Branch (RAEB), Ministry of Health, Ontario. Member by invitation.
- Invited presenter at EU-Canada Bilateral Dialogue closed session on Misinformation in COVID. Digital Health Canada. Lead for special admissions initiative for Dr. Khaled Almilaji, Syrian physician; national media coverage.
- Achieved ‘first in category’ recognition for AI-enhanced curriculum under Vector Institute’s RaiSE AI program.
- Concept to launch (co-lead; instruction) of first AI in Health Certificate for Institute.
- Concept to launch of ‘MHI AI Knowledge Base;’ a repository of curricular AI elements; a student AI Roadmap; a pipeline to curate new AI knowledge via students.
- Jerusalem College of Technology Strategic Partnership Award for leadership of first Master of Health Informatics delivery in Israel (invited co-lead).
- Master of Health Informatics Continuity Leadership (COVID Response), including formal University of Toronto ‘Declaration of Disruption’.
- Academic and Managing Director, CanCOVID and REAL
- ‘Skills for Change’ Advisory Committee, Health Informatics Bridging Program for Internationally Trained Clinicians
- Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Adjunct Faculty Appointment (delayed by COVID).
- Accelerating the Adoption of AI in Healthcare, Partnership Roundtable (invited member). Michener Institute, Vector Institute and University Health Network, ON.
- Advisor to Research Study: Digital Compassion Professional Competencies and Technological Attributes, UHN, CAMH. 2022.
- Jerusalem College of Technology Strategic Partnership Award. Toronto, ON.
Please tell us why you feel Digital Health Canada members should vote for you.
I want to work deeply with diverse stakeholders to lean into this post-COVID inflection point. I know how to help harness the hope and reduce the hype in our Canadian context of rapid virtualization and a globally rising AI surge. My cross-sectoral expertise in bridging private, consumer, and public domains in digital health will enable me to contribute big ideas and make bold, equitable strides in empowering Canadian health system change.
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.
- MIT Sloan Artificial Intelligence in Health Care Certificate, 2022
- PhD UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, 2001 Communications Theory (semiotics, postmodernism, linguistics)
- MA UNIVERSITÉ DE SHERBROOKE,1993 Comparative Literature: Communications Theory
- BA HONS VICTORIA COLLEGE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO,1991