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In collaboration with the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the University of Waterloo has established a new, multidisciplinary campus partnership to design WatSPEED’s first custom corporate learning program. The program offers a series of custom online data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) courses for CIHI managers and data analysts. It helps participants gain familiarity with a broad set of technical skills to remain competitive and agile as emerging technologies impact the health care industry.

“The health analytics space is ever evolving, and CIHI understands our responsibility to Canadians to leverage the latest techniques and approaches for the health information we hold,” says Kathleen Morris, vice-president, research and analysis at CIHI. “CIHI is proud to collaborate with WatSPEED on this innovative staff learning program, drawing on the University of Waterloo’s renowned expertise in AI and machine learning, and our own expertise in standards, data, indicators, and analytics.”

A man with grey hair and a tan jacket“The future of health care in Canada is much more complicated than it ever has been before, and as we move into more sophisticated health information systems for the country, individuals will have very complicated data records about their lives,” says John Hirdes, professor at the School of Public Health Sciences and academic advisor for the CIHI program. ”This program brings some of Waterloo’s best expertise to the forefront to work collaboratively with CIHI staff to train them in the newest analytic techniques, so they can successfully work with these complex data.” 

Key collaborators for the program offering, which is developed specifically for CIHI’s workforce, include WatSPEED, Waterloo’s Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology, the Cheriton School of Computer Science, the School of Public Health Sciences, the Systems Design Engineering department, and the Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute (Waterloo.AI). 

“Change is hard, but this trend of data-driven decision-making to deliver health care in a more effective and efficient manner is here to stay,” says Jimmy Lin, co-director at Waterloo.AI and academic advisor for the CIHI program. “Data science and artificial intelligence will – if it hasn’t already – transform all sectors of the economy and reshape the fabric of society. That’s why we’re collaborating to better prepare CIHI’s workforce and accompany them on every step of their AI journey.”  

As CIHI learners work through courses in the program, they will enhance their understanding of data science and AI, and develop the analytical skills and expertise needed to deliver on CIHI’s strategic goals and priorities. 

A man with dark hair, glasses and a pink collared shirt“WatSPEED provides the infrastructure for delivering the content,” says Lin. “Waterloo.AI, in collaboration with all the other units on campus involved in this project, oversees the delivery of the content, and CIHI uses that content to make improvements within their organization. Behind all of this, we have the excellent reputation of the University of Waterloo to support the whole enterprise.”

In terms of what’s next for this interdisciplinary partnership at Waterloo, scaling the CIHI program for similar offerings in the future has been the forefront of several strategic conversations.

“It’s important for Waterloo to establish a strategy of working with partners, or stakeholders in the health data space at all levels – local, provincial, national and international,” says Hirdes. “The fact that we have some valuable resources that we’re able to offer to CIHI means that we can also think about other organizations that may be interested in partnering for the same type of training related to evidence-informed decision making in healthcare.”

CIHI’s longstanding relationship with the University of Waterloo extends across multiple research projects, academic programs, and co-operative and experiential education. As CIHI and the University of Waterloo explore how work processes in science and health will evolve to create new possibilities over the next five years, this strategic partnership creates an exciting new opportunity for Waterloo to further support the workforce of the future. 


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