Ensuring that everyone benefits from the best care

The ability to use data to predict someone’s risk of developing a particular disease promises to revolutionise healthcare.

Health data science has made tremendous progress on this front with the development of medical prediction algorithms. However, it’s far from being a straightforward area of work. That’s in part because many predictive tools have been developed using limited data which can lead to biases because they fail to account for the differences between society’s many sub-groups.

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” model when it comes to human health.

HDRUK-Turing Wellcome PhD student Claire Coffey is undertaking research to help tackle the problem and ensure that algorithms work equally well for everyone. It’s vital work if we are to ensure that everyone – regardless of ethnicity, gender, age or any other factor – can benefit from better screening decisions, preventative interventions and treatments.

Now in the second year of her research (the third of the programme) Claire is studying and living in Cambridge. During the programme’s foundation year she was part of a project that used data from Wuhan, in China, to identify sub-types of COVID-19 to enable more accurate prognoses.

Having taken a Computer Science BSc at Birmingham she then worked in research and development before going to the University of Cambridge for an MPhil in Advanced Computer Science.

The PhD programme, which includes leadership skills training, is now preparing the ground for an exciting future career. One of its greatest assets is that it allows students a high level of autonomy in their research.

Claire said: “Something that attracted me was the ability to decide the direction of my own research. Looking to the future I am hoping to do something in research, and want it to be something that has real impact on people’s lives.

“I also think it would be cool to work for myself at some stage, and I feel that the programme’s leadership training is definitely helping me towards my goals.”

Another factor that may come into play is the Alumni Network which is open to existing students and anyone who has been part of HDR UK’s training and learning initiatives. The network aims to provide networking and mentoring opportunities, plus events like the recent CV workshop, with the aim of helping people build their careers.