Work by a Waterloo Engineering alumnus to tackle mental health issues using digital technology was highlighted this week as part of a national initiative to help prepare Canadian youth for the future.

Yuri Quintana, who earned all three of his engineering degrees at Waterloo, is a professor at Harvard Medical School and chief of clinical informatics at one of its teaching hospitals.

Yuri Quintana is a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Yuri Quintana is a professor and clinical informatics expert at Harvard Medical School.

He is now working with organizations in Canada to evaluate mobile mental health applications for youths and develop an app to help them deal with anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for part of his research is provided by the RBC Foundation, which featured Quintana in a 35-minute podcast exploring the dangers and potential mental health benefits of technology as COVID dramatically increases screen time for young people.

“When properly applied, (technology) can certainly provide more access to services, to knowledge and support services,” he says. “We’re trying to help individuals as well as organizations use that technology in the best way possible.

“Technology can enable us to remain connected with our friends, with our healthcare providers, but it’s also true that spending too much time connected to technology doesn’t allow you individual time to de-connect and decompress.”

Deep roots at his alma mater

Quintana is the son of Waterloo Engineering professor emeritus Victor Quintana and Mone Quintana, who worked at the University of Waterloo arts library. He is married to Brenda, also a University alumnus, and the father of current computer engineering student Nicolas.

He is a global ambassador for the University and launched a Boston-area group to bring engineering alumni together and mentor co-op students.

After earning a PhD in systems design engineering in 1995, Quintana began his career developing internet search engines before circumstance led him into a series of increasingly responsible positions in the healthcare field.