Q & A with PhD Candidate & Health Information Management Scholarship Recipient Elizabeth Campbell

PhD student Elizabeth Campbell photographed from the shoulders up in front of a background of tropical plants. She is wearing a red sweater and glasses, smiling at the camera.

Elizabeth Campbell, a doctoral candidate in the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) Information Science program recently received two different health information management scholarships: the Katrina Kehlet Graduate Award from the New Jersey Health Information and Management Systems Society and the Graduate Student Scholarship from the New Jersey Health Information Management Association.   


Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Elizabeth earned a B.A. in Public Health Studies from Johns Hopkins University and a M.S.P.H. in Health Policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is currently a graduate research assistant with the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Masino. Her research focuses on applying machine learning methods to Electronic Health Record (EHR) data to study pediatric obesity incidence.                   


We interviewed Elizabeth about her recent scholarship awards, how her time at CCI and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has prepared her for a career in health information management and what’s on the horizon for her. Read our conversation below.   


PhD student Elizabeth Campbell is photographed working from her home. She is seated with a laptop on her table, wearing glasses and smiling at the camera. How will receiving these awards impact your research agenda – are there any proposed projects this funding will enable you to pursue?   

The funding supports my doctoral studies, which generally encompasses my proposed dissertation research. Through my dissertation, I aim to develop a methodology to assess and alleviate bias in datasets developed from Electronic Health Records (EHRs). This work builds on my past research in using machine learning methods and EHR data to study pediatric obesity incidence prediction. I will use my childhood obesity research as a case study for my work to investigate bias in EHR data. In particular, I will focus on studying sampling bias and prejudicial bias (how biases that exist in society may manifest in EHR data). It’s my hope that my research can be used to develop fairer datasets and machine learning models in clinical research/practice, that can help to mitigate rather than exasperate existing disparities in our healthcare system.    


How has your time at Drexel prepared you for success in the field of healthcare information management?   

Going into my PhD program, I had a strong healthcare background, particularly in public health. As a student, and then as a health informatics fellow after my Masters, I developed a strong interest in working with data and how data can be used to tell a story to understand the factors that impact population health outcomes. Though I had the healthcare domain knowledge and a passion for data, I lacked formal training to be able to work with data to answer the research questions I found myself asking.     


Developing my technical knowledge and skill set was one of the biggest reasons I chose Drexel for my PhD. With Drexel’s support, I was able to take classes in computer science, programming, data mining, and human-centered computing (among other subject areas) to build my coding skills and domain knowledge. I ended up taking so many extra classes that I was able to earn a second Master's degree through a dual enrollment in the University’s MS in Data Science program!   


Tell us about the professional network you’ve been able to build through your research assistant position and in the classroom.   

I’ve been privileged to work as a graduate research assistant in the Research Data Science group within the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics (under the supervision of Professor Aaron Masino) at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) since I began as a student at Drexel. This has allowed me to learn from and collaborate with an incredible assortment of researchers, develop my professional network, and grow as a health informatics researcher.    


Finally, I have been able to build relationships with my fellow PhD students and my professors at CCI that I believe will extend far beyond my PhD. The professors at Drexel (including my own PhD advisor, Professor Jake Ryland Williams) are incredibly knowledgeable, but also kind, empathetic, and engaged with their students. I work with a wonderful cohort of talented PhD students who I am lucky to count as both my colleagues and friends.    


The University has done so much to help prepare me for a career in the health information management field. Drexel has facilitated my cross-institutional collaboration with CHOP, allowed me to acquire training to develop my technical skills and knowledge, and helped me to build relationships with an exemplary network of peers and mentors alike from within the institution.    


How does it feel to be selected for both awards?   

I am tremendously humbled and honored. At the same time, the recognition gives me confidence to continue to pursue the research questions that interest me and shows me that other individuals and organizations support these ideas and find value in my work.    


Is there anything you discovered about yourself or your goals in the field as a result of going through the essay writing process for these awards?   

Any time that I have the opportunity to write about my work and think through how my experiences have led me to the place where I am now is a valuable opportunity for reflection. I wrote my scholarship essays at the same time that I was writing my dissertation proposal. Those essays were very helpful in allowing me to think about my former educational and professional accomplishments and how they inform the work that I am doing today and hope to do in the future. Our experiences and education do not happen in isolation- our past is a part of the narrative that shapes our current interests, goals, and passions. I’m very fortunate to have had such amazing professional and academic opportunities in the past and present, and to be so supported in doing work that I love and deeply care about.  

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