Sarah Poole says better records will result in earlier diagnoses and more effective treatment regimes. She has received a Fulbright scholarship and a J R Templin bursary to study biomedical informatics at Stanford for five years.
“I am looking at improving patient outcomes. Because the hospital records in the United States have been computerised for around a decade this information is sitting there waiting to be looked at.
“If we can trawl through all the data, we should be able to find patterns. These patterns could show early indicators of disease, which would allow early intervention to treat the disease, or even prevent the disease developing in the first place.
“We could also find risk factors for diseases, or identify effective treatments or treatment combinations. Traditionally, if a doctor has an idea for a new treatment regime or combination, a clinical trial will be run to determine its effectiveness.
“Using this approach, patients can be treated with the most suitable treatment for them, improving outcomes. This is particularly important in a country like New Zealand. Some treatments have slightly different effects for people of different ethnicities and body types.
“New Zealand is very multi-cultural and clinicians should adapt their treatments for each new patient that walks through the door. But this can be very difficult. Using informatics in a personalised medicine approach will mean that clinicians can be confident that they are giving each patient the best possible treatment.’’
Poole, from Taranaki, says the opportunity to study at Stanford will be life-changing for her. She says she is determined to make the most of the opportunity at one of the world’s best universities.
“I can’t wait to bring the knowledge I gather back to New Zealand. I think that the area of personalised medicine and statistics based healthcare are really taking off, and I hope to be able to bring exciting new techniques and ideas to New Zealand.
“My work has the potential to change the role of the patient in the New Zealand healthcare system and I can’t wait to be a part of this. I also hope to be involved in lecturing at UC after I have completed my PhD and I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm and new knowledge with young New Zealanders.’’
Poole’s supervising mechatronics engineer lecturer, Professor Geoff Chase, says Poole has been an outstanding student with exceptional talent and potential.
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