Hello, I am Christiane Zhao. It has been a while since we send out newsletters for you. Since the Women in Health IT Conference, our team are working efficiency to express this community’s thoughts to different industrials leaders and organisations during the past month. We always believe this is what organising and essence is all about.
Several interesting thing to share with you.
I attended the Health Tech Week 2019 in early July, and a lot of attention has been drawn to the Therapeutic Product Bills.The Therapeutic Products Bill would replace the Medicines Act 1981 and establish a new regulatory scheme for therapeutic products. During the conference, a consultation process has involved and several professionals has raised concerns and drawn confusion to the draft. For more information, please watch my Vlog 6 in CareTechdia(on Vimeo).
I visited Scott Arrol, the CEO of NZHIT, with Gabriella Laude, Sammy Choudary and Gabriel Siman. We are expected to generate a summer internship programme for both of our students and Health IT companies in Auckland. If you have any suggestions, please kindly send an email to me or my team. We are expected to launch the programme by the end of the year. This programme is expected to provide students opportunities to work in the health-tech industries and close the gap between students and the industries. We will also carefully control the gender ratio to ensure all genders receive equal benefits from this programme.
The Ministry of Health also invited me as the first guest speaker to talk at the Health Women’s Network. We mark this as an achievement for the committee team, as well as for you, as an active participant in our community. We are glad that our stories can inspire more professionals across all levels in the healthcare and technology industry, and we are expected to walk further and further by standing shoulders and shoulders with any single one of you.
Lastly, we are planning to host an orientation event on mid-August. We will release more information about this event very soon.
I deeply appreciate your participation in the Healthcare Technology Association NZ. As mentioned before, I am expected to fly to America to continue my Health-Tech journey in Boston by the end of August. During my time away, I will work with Gaberilla Laude, the co-president, in a distance. Please continue to support our committee team as always.
Here to the strong men and women: May we know them, may we be them and may we raise them.
Christiane and the HTA team
Christiane Zhao as the first guest speaker of the Health Women’s Network at the Ministry of Health, New Zealand
“Diversity is our constraint and unity is our power. If they don’t see there is a gap in the industry, we will break the silence and raise the hands.”
On 18th July 2019, Christiane Zhao had been invited as the first guest speaker of the Health Women’s Network at the Ministry of Health. She started with her personal journey of reducing inequality through establishing the Healthcare Technology Association NZ. She then shared her experience of hosting the first ever Women in Health IT Conference in New Zealand.
The Health Women’s Network is a place mainly for the female professionals at the Ministry of Health. It facilitates the sharing of information and experiences, and encourages and supports women’s participation in the health-related workforce. The invitation to provide the talk for both the Auckland and Wellington offices marks a fundamental turning point for both Christiane and the community she represented. It indicates that the public and the industry are drawing greater attention to the inequality gap between tertiary students and senior professionals, as well as the gap between male and female workers. Christiane believes the status quo within the industries should be carefully addressed, and the ability of accessing information or meetings should be based not on a young professional’s socioeconomic status but rather their skills and willingness to learn.
“When we were selecting the conference topic in February, we were especially surprised by the fact that we do not have any sort of conference or meeting specifically for the women in the Health-Tech industry,” Christiane said. “After we selected the topic, I visited several offices and spoke with a lot of people and, surprisingly, the complexity of this topic makes our work even more meaningful than ever.”
An issue arising from this topic is that some people assume it is creates a battleground for male and female professionals. The team is trying to avoid focusing too much on statistics and addressing gender equality, but rather to focus on the realistic and personal barriers for female professionals to release their potential and overcome challenges. Throughout the entire preparation process, Christiane also realised there is very little research or survey data to represent the gender inequalities in both the healthcare and technology industries in New Zealand. In addition, it is significantly difficult to invite either male speakers or male attendees to be involved in the conference. “Some told me there is no gender inequality in the industry as approximately 60-70% of healthcare workers are female.” Christiane states, “However, we do not have enough female-representation at the management level in both industries. We also face greater barriers due to the fact that female CEOs are doubted in the status quo.”
Christiane herself generated $4000 sponsorships and receives approximately $3000 from ticket sales. Half of the sponsorships are generated from Mercy Radiology and Vensa Health. She then collaborated with five supporters, made up of non-profit organisations, non-profit societies and companies. A team of 10 part-time students were formed in April to support the WiHIT Interview Series and the conference itself happened on 27th May. During the meeting, the majority of the attendees were inspired and surprised by Christiane’s initiatives and achievements.
During the talk, Christiane provided some solid data generated from the Women in Health IT Conference. The conference had more than 74 attendees and 14 guest speakers involved throughout the entire day. There was wide representation of staff from DHBs and companies like Orion Health and Deloitte. Approximately 18% of the attendees were managers, 13% attendees were CEOs/Directors. Its official website received more than 6043 visits within three months, which is an impressive record for New Zealand. “We received a lot of positive feedback from the surveys as well as other social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.” Keeping a whole-day conference ticket as low as $43 for students and $87 for others is another step taken to fight against inequalities in the industry. Tertiary and Master students comprised 20% of the attendees.
On the 24th of June, the HTANZ committee team lead by Sammy Choudary and Gabriella Laude hosted an event about genomics and next generation sequencing at Grafton Campus, University of Auckland. Five guest speakers discussed various issues and projects regarding next generation sequencing, and an audience of diverse academic and professional backgrounds attended the event. The topics covered ranged from the challenges of managing and analysing large quantities of data from genomics, to finding ways to stop the infestation of the Varroa mite in beehives.
The first speaker: Dr. Justin O’Sullivan is a researcher at the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland. This talk discussed the utilisation of genomics and next generation sequencing in the life of consumers and government agencies. Currently there are an unprecedented amount of direct consumer access to their genomes through wearable devices and electronic health records. A common example for direct consumer access to genomic technology are companies that trace ancestry from DNA samples. Another example includes the ability to analyse one’s gut microbiome to develop a personalised nutrition plan that suits the gut microbiome.
He also cited the use of genomic technology and next generation sequencing in law enforcement agencies where small samples of DNA can be sequenced and matched against any relatives in its database. In this case, this method was used to identify the Golden State Killer. New innovations in genomic technology allows the digital construction of one’s face using a DNA sample. In conclusion, Dr. O’Sullivan demonstrated how the future of genomic technology and next generation sequencing is not limited to scientific research, but also in our everyday lives.
Dr. Dan Jones is a researcher at Plant & Food Research where he talked on recent developments and challenges that are involved in the next generation sequencing of plants and crops. Whilst Plant & Food Research do not directly deal with human genomes, they are involved in the development of new plant and food cultivars that support or enhance human health attributes. Such developments include berries that have higher anthocyanin levels.
He then discussed the challenges facing next generation sequencing at Plant & Food Research where researchers are required to assemble genomes due to the extreme size of genome such as Pinus radiata. Furthermore, the difficulty of extracting plant DNA and the large variations of genome within the same crop species, known as polyploidy, poses additional challenges to next generation sequencing for plant and crop researchers. Dr. Jones conveyed how next generation sequencing in plant and crop sequencing faces different challenges than the study of human genomics.
Dr. Pablo German is the co-founder of Pheromite, where they aim to develop a parasiticide through the genome of the Varroa mite, a pest that infests beehives. He talks on the complex steps and developmental stages required to create the right chemical compounds that can target the mite. These complex stages involve the sequencing of the Varroa mite’s genome and “mining” for transcriptome sequences which allow potential protein target to be developed on a computer. These targets are used to develop chemical compounds which eventually leads to the parasiticide To finalise, Dr. German shows how the analysis of genomic sequences can lead to the development of new products, and that the same development cycle for Pheromite’s parasiticides can be applied to humans as well.
Dr. Stefan Bohlander is a professor at the University of Auckland where he discussed the impact of genomics and next generation sequencing in myeloid leukaemia. This disease has a great impact in cancer research as Leukaemia is the first disease that had its genetic alterations found. The method for the discovery of the gene alterations that lead to Leukaemia and analysis was the precursor to next generation sequencing. He then discussed the specifics and developments through genomics that have led to improved diagnostics of Leukaemia, and the ability to isolate the gene alteration, or the proportion for malignant cells in the patient for acute myeloid leukaemia. These advancements lead to more effective and accurate treatments such as bone marrow transplant. In conclusion, Prof. Bohlander demonstrated a specific case where genomic science is applied in the field of cancer.
Prof Crist Print is a professor at the University of Auckland, and he talked on the impact of genomics and next generation sequencing in the medical and clinical field both in New Zealand and abroad. Firstly, describing current projects in New Zealand that the audience who aspire to become bioinformaticians can be part of such as genomics Aotearoa, PROSPER and NETwork. Then he discussed collaborative genomic projects overseas, such as Genomics England, where research companies are linked to genomic data from the National Health Service with the consent of patients to develop improved therapy solutions. Similarly, genomic projects were initiated in Australia which resulted in large investments in the genomic industry in the country.
Considering these events in genomics, Prof. Print cited the need for genomics in healthcare, using Dame Sally Davies’s 2016 UK CMO report where she outlined the need to add members that have knowledge and experience with genomic science to the “clinical team”. This addition to the clinical team demonstrates the evolving nature of genomic science and its involvement in healthcare. He further demonstrates the increasing role of genomic science in healthcare through the review of the NHS on the future of its health workforce for a digital future where it states that “all staff will need digital and genomic literacy”. This calls for clinicians such as GPs to embrace genomic science to enhance care and diagnosis in the field of health.
Prof. Print then discussed the challenges facing genomics such as the need to develop artificial intelligence to handle vast quantities of data generated from genomic sequencing. The talk also discussed inequities that exists in genomic science, where certain ethnicities and population groups are underrepresented in genomic databases, that genomic databases are biased towards countries that have put greater investment into genomic technology. In conclusion, Prof. Print stated the immense potential that is still yet to be unleashed in the field of healthcare and that genomic technologies can play a big role in how societies can improve their health.
Overall the five speakers have enlightened us in the field of genomic science and we can see the importance of genomics and next generation sequencing in our everyday lives, in healthcare and in research, where advancements in technology has led to innovative products, diagnosis and therapy. We also looked at the unique challenges that stand in the way for further developments in this field. Hopefully anyone who attended the event and those who read this article can use the knowledge and insights passed from the speakers to embrace the wave of genomic science into our society.
A Report by Gabriel Siman,
Writer at HTANZ.