On an average day in Australia, 850 babies are born, 6000 elective surgeries are performed and 406,000 visits are made to a doctor, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Examining the numbers around health in health data analytics are not just interesting; they can help us make big changes in people’s lives.
Understanding how an infectious disease will spread, where a blocked artery might appear or a person’s risk of heart attack – all of that requires interpreting numbers from health data analytics.
That’s why so many areas of health need a maths expert on the job, whether analysing trends in disease of the population by working as an epidemiologist, or as a data scientist developing artificial intelligence systems to predict hospital admissions – there are a lot of pathways to making a difference.
Modelling a brighter future
Predicting the future isn’t easy, but it’s part of the job for Michaela Hall. Michaela is a modelling specialist at the Cancer Council NSW and has calculated that cervical cancer will soon be extremely rare in Australia. This prediction was based on health data analytics, including current rates of vaccine registration and cervical cancer screenings, as well as how many people are being diagnosed with the disease, AKA using numbers. “This was a really exciting finding. We’ve got great cervical screening and vaccine uptake rates in this country,” she says.
Michaela completed a Bachelor of Advanced Mathematics at Macquarie University, before starting as a research assistant at the Cancer Council. “It was a really good introduction to research and a crash course in biology,” she says. Michaela then completed her Masters of Mathematics and is now working on her PhD at the University of New South Wales.
For her PhD, she is modelling HIV and HPV (human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer) infection in Tanzania to determine how to tackle these diseases. “I’m hoping to do some analysis of which strategies can have the biggest impact in reducing disease,” she says.
Michaela’s career path:
>> Bachelor of Advanced Science (Mathematics), Macquarie University
>> PhD, Applied, Mathematics, UNSW
>> Lab Assistant, UNSW
>> Modelling specialist, Cancer Council NSW
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Data scientist: $63K–$130K
*Source: Salaries according to payscale.com
Author: Cherese Sonkkila
Cherese is Assistant Editor of Careers with STEM. She is passionate about producing engaging STEM content and has a strong background in science writing and editing. She holds a science degree with Honours from the University of Melbourne.