Student Spotlight: Irina Angel

"I am a physician, board certified in adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry. I embarked on studies in health informatics and analytics in an effort to innovate in ways that work for patients."

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a physician, board certified in adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry. I am currently practicing community psychiatry, including child and adolescent psychiatry at the Riverside Community Care Clinic. I am also participating in an international study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is using multiple sensors and AI to try to measure evidence of stress and then use that data to predict which healthcare workers are most susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

A few years ago I got involved with a project aiming to optimize support and care delivery for patients with opioid use disorder through digital solutions. This work offered me an experience that became a tipping point in my career. It advanced my vision and defined a clearer path for how to bridge gaps in care for patients affected by the opiate crisis. I embarked on studies in health informatics and analytics in an effort to innovate in ways that work for patients.

Why did you choose the Tufts’ online MS in Health Informatics & Analytics program?

The program is stimulating. It is forward thinking with adhocracy, values with which I identify.

Which track did you choose and why?

I am on the health analytics track. It is not because of the hipness of being a data analyst. I believe that having competency in data analysis is essential in healthcare.

What has been your favorite course and why?

All the courses have been immeasurably enriching. All my professors are stellar at what they do. They are fully committed to student growth, building quality in our work, while maximizing the value of every effort we make.

The coronavirus projects during my biostatistics course were my favorite. In one of our assignments, the question was to correct the interpretation of the confidence interval shown in the Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing video. It was an eye opening and empowering experience. This exercise made us more aware of the importance of cultivating high quality statistical skills and approaches.

Tell us about your experiences in the virtual classroom.

The virtual classroom is customizable, and you can get creative with it. You can even change the background. I used the starry night background for our late evening course on Fundamentals of Privacy in Security in Health IT to bring in the celebration of midsummer nights. Recordings of our synchronous sessions are available for student review and it can help with homework. The idea of virtual class is interesting in the sense that it removes physical barriers. Our course directors host guests from different sites from time to time. Overall, it’s been a positive experience.

What’s one thing that has surprised you about being a student in this program?

How much we learned in a short period of time. At the end of my first term, I was approached by a startup company asking for my input on their new project. By then, I had just completed the Introduction to Health Informatics and Analytics course and was curious to find out more about their work. However, I clarified that I had only completed three courses. I was surprised to discover how familiar I was with the subject. I was even more surprised to be asked if I ever considered being a principal investigator. I realized that diligent study pays off.

What challenges have you faced in this program, and how have you overcome them?

Some assignments seemed terrifying. For example, the experience of being constrained by tight timelines and limited information during our first table-top analysis on breach management was overwhelming. However, having a strong team made it possible to openly share our discomfort, which helped us to align with the task quickly and to engage in a productive discussion about our breach management solution.

What are your plans after graduation?

That is a hard question. There are so many paths. Right now I am interested in dashboard applications in healthcare as a data visualization and communication tool. I believe that a well-designed dashboard can effectively communicate actionable, metrics-driven strategies with assured safety, accuracy, and affordability while streamlining workflows and promoting cutting-edge innovations. I hope that the program will prepare us to take the lead in solving the most challenging healthcare problems.

Do you have any advice for aspiring MS in Health Informatics & Analytics students?

Being a student is a rewarding journey. School is a safe place to be vulnerable and to embrace challenging moments, which ultimately become our best teachers. I recommend this program to anyone who is curious and willing to take a leap into the unknown. It may change your life in ways you can’t imagine.