Riley Hazard

University of Virginia Fellow Visits Data for Health

In June and July this year, visiting fellow Riley Hazard came to work on the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative at the University of Melbourne.

Riley, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, joined Alan Lopez and the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative team while on his summer break. Originally from Oregon in the US, Riley moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, intending to pursue a degree in biology and then apply to medical school.

Interest in public health

But after taking a class in econometrics, he found that he was more interested in statistical applications to medicine. He honed his skills in this area by joining public health research groups in HIV screening, hospital epidemiology, and predictive modelling of septic patients.

“I came to the realisation that public health is such an international disciple that I would benefit from broadening my perspective by spending time outside the US. I contacted various researchers in Australia and Western Europe before Professor Alan Lopez was kind enough to invite me to join his team,” said Riley.

At the University of Melbourne, Riley worked on a National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded project that took place between 2011 and 2014 in Bangladesh. He analysed the quality of death certificates in Bangladesh and assessed the performance of cause of death predictions from an algorithm developed in collaboration with the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative.

Potential to save millions of lives

Riley believes that working as a full time researcher helped improve his statistical coding and writing technique as well as his communication skills. He found the career paths of the researchers at the University of Melbourne inspiring, particularly Alan Lopez and Professorial Fellow Ian Riley for the prolific research and travel they have undertaken.

“Estimating and analysing the distribution of causes of death in rural areas of the world may not sound as sexy as ground-breaking surgery techniques, but it has the potential to save millions of lives. Our research will help inform health policy in underdeveloped regions of the world,” Riley said.

After graduation, Riley hopes to spend a couple of years honing his research skills and narrowing his interests before beginning a PhD program. He one day aspires to conduct field research and perhaps go on to teach public health statistics.

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