How Interdisciplinary Approaches to Health Care Are Vital for Our Future

Waterloo Innovation Summit Health Tech

Our population is aging. This demographic shift is affecting the majority of Western nations and creating profound challenges. This and other factors – from mobility and accessibility to the efforts to battle cancer – are creating a number of opportunities to find solutions and supports. Universities have a leading role to play in meeting these challenges head on. The University of Waterloo is leading the way.

This week the University hosted the Waterloo Innovation Summit which brought leaders to campus to discuss how a boom in health technology is transforming health care. With speakers that included Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and James Drake who is the Surgeon-in Chief and Chief of Perioperative Services at SickKids, the Summit revealed the future of health care innovations and how they are not being led exclusively by medical schools.

This summit made it clear to me the development of health care breakthroughs are being found at the intersection of science, math, and technology – not always in the labs and lecture halls of medical schools.

This kind of interdisciplinary work is at the heart of countless breakthroughs right here at Waterloo. Researchers are using artificial intelligence to help identify cancer sooner. Computational models are enabling scientists to better understand the effectiveness of drugs. This is also seen in the case of Professor Strickland’s own research as her work on creating more powerful lasers through chirped pulse amplification paved the way for making laser eye surgery possible. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what people at Waterloo are doing at the intersection of technology and health.

The Role of Policy Insights

The development of health technologies that will serve those in need are being developed right here at Waterloo, but it is important to remember that research into health care policies and practices provide vital insights. Social sciences, humanities, and environmental sciences are at the leading edge of uncovering the challenges we are about to face, such as the economic and social costs of an aging population, and also developing health care policy recommendations to meet the needs of society.

There is a clear need for our faculty members, researchers, and students to see the connections between their work and the coordinated approaches that they can take in solving health-care related challenges. This is what sets Waterloo apart.

We are not bound by the traditional idea that health-care solutions only come from medical schools. They come from the best ideas, which can be found when a concentration of outstanding talent come together. As the only U15 institution in Canada without a medical school, Waterloo is producing breakthroughs in health at a level that is truly unique.

Let us continue working together and not be bound by the limitations of tradition or labels. Breakthroughs come from those willing to push boundaries for the sake of curiosity and impact. Let that be our tradition.

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