PhD student, Public Health and Health Systems

Using Artificial Intelligence to improve individual health care

Collecting data is well established in the health-care industry. Health-care workers engaging with patients collect data as a routine part of their jobs. This data is frequently used to influence the big picture. However, delivering a direct and helpful outcome for an individual patient that contributed to the data pool doesn’t typically transpire. Stella’s research looks at how we can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bridge the gap between the data that’s collected and meaningful standard practice for patient care. By understanding not only a patient’s clinical situation, but also their journey through home and community sectors, we can start to anticipate and plan the best transitional care for the patient, deliver more effective discharge planning and a more proactive approach to alternate level of care. In particular, Stella focuses older adults and frailty.

“Frailty isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging, it’s a preventable and even reversible vulnerable state. By prioritizing early identification, early risk prediction and targeting preventative intervention protocols, we can do a lot to mitigate frailty and improve the quality of life of older adults.”  

Stella Arthur


From the front line to policy influence

Earlier on her career path, Stella worked directly with patients as a neurosurgical nurse. Although this remains one of her most fulfilling experiences, it also revealed challenges in health care that needed addressing from a clinical lens. She realized that the path to policy change was at the administrative leadership table, which was not typically a direct path for nurses. Returning to research and education to obtain her PhD would help her make those compelling contributions. Additionally, as a person of colour, Stella noticed that the lack of diversity at the leadership table meant that decisions made at the top were disproportionately influencing patient care. She believes that the need for diverse representation has become increasingly vital in health-care leadership for more equitable and balanced decision making. "If outcomes are going to shift, the narrative has to shift as well, intentionally."

"Representation is not about prestige – it goes way beyond that. There’s a lot of nuances to understanding the needs of people. You need that lived experience to understand how to care for people - otherwise it’s just a bunch of well-intended assumptions and artificial projections."


Why Waterloo?

While researching graduate programs all over the world from her home base in Los Angeles, California, Stella found the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She connected with Professor John Hirdes, and after some correspondence with him, she knew that this PhD program was for her.

“I needed to be in space where I would walk the talk. Being at the front line of health care, I needed to know that what I was researching would matter. And being embraced in a place where the clinical perspective is valued was a defining factor.  John’s research, his work and the work from the students in his lab are really making a difference. That was it for me. My decision to come here was made.”

Now in her final year of the doctoral program, Stella was awarded Microsoft’s dissertation grant. This prestigious award will allow Stella to use the $25,000 grant for her dissertation research. Her dissertation is titled: “Predicting Adverse Outcomes Among Frail Surgical Patients in Acute Care Hospitals."

“I’ve formed great professional alliances. I have friends who have become family. I’d do it all over again.”

University of Waterloo