Meet Dr. Samira Rahimi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine

Published: 31 March 2020

Meet Dr. Samira Rahimi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Samira Abbasgholizadeh-Rahimi is an unstoppable force motivated by one thing: having a positive impact on health care systems both in Canada and abroad. Dr. Rahimi brings a multidisciplinary background to her work, having completed her doctoral studies in Industrial and System Engineering with a focus on health care systems in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Université Laval, where she subsequently pursued her postdoctoral training in the Department of Family and Emergency Medicine. She joined McGill University’s Department of Family Medicine in January 2019 where she focuses her efforts on employing innovative technology and analytical Artificial Intelligence (AI) to primary care. Tackling many projects simultaneously, Dr. Rahimi works as an affiliated scientist at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research of the Jewish General Hospital and has received numerous grants for her projects.

“Primary care is not limited to one specialty context, you tackle various diseases,” shares Dr. Rahimi reflecting on the origins of her interest in family medicine and primary care. She is a firm believer in the importance of patient-centred care and meaningful involvement of patients and clinicians in research. “Patient-centred care is extremely important. I am hoping to facilitate patient-centred primary care using innovative technology and AI.”

Dr. Rahimi ultimately wants to help in solving health care system problems using system engineering solutions such as AI. To put it simply, she explains that, “Artificial intelligence is defined as a branch of engineering and computer science that tries to both understand intelligence and also build intelligence systems.” These intelligence systems are built as software programs, in different platforms, such as web pages, mobile applications, or different devices. Dr. Rahimi further explains that primary health care is where individuals make their first and most frequent contact with the health care system which makes it the area that AI could be of help the most. For instance, AI can help in early detection of diseases and its timely management all in the most accessed area of health care, primary care.

This year, Dr. Rahimi was awarded a $100,000 Canadian Institutes of Health Research SPOR Grant for her international project “Xi-Care: eXplainable intelligent system for Cardiovascular disease management among women in primary Care.” Through this project, Dr. Rahimi and her team are working to develop an intelligence system for early detection of cardiovascular disease among women for primary health care. “Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and second leading cause of death in Canada. Studies shows, women tend to be diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases 10 years later than their male counterparts, and are less likely to receive preventive treatment or guidance.”

Dr. Rahimi explains that based on a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, only 22% of primary care providers felt well-prepared to assess and manage cardiovascular diseases in women. She highlights the clear need for a decision support system to assist primary care providers in early detection and management. “ Xi-Care brings together both precision medicine and personalized medicine, to empower both clinicians and women at risk of cardiovascular diseases using explainable and transparent AI-empowered decision support system.” Believing strongly in the importance of combining international data, she is collaborating with researchers from Canada, Iran, the United States (US) and Spain for this project. “This project is particularly important to me because I lost loved ones as a result of cardiovascular disease. Hopefully, I will be able to make a difference in early detection and preventing this disease.”

Among her other projects, Dr. Rahimi was awarded a 6,000 Swiss francs grant by the Brocher Foundation of Switzerland for the “AI-COVID19” project. In hopes that her initiative will help people during this time of crisis, Dr. Rahimi collaborating with clinicians and researchers in different continents to better inform the next phase of COVID-19. “In this effort, we hope to help in management of COVID-19 and be able to better inform primary care practitioners in this public health emergency.” As part of this project, Dr. Rahimi is preparing a workshop with the data that she receives from multiple researchers from Canada, China, Iran, Spain, Turkey , the US and Switzerland. World Health Organization (WHO) is also involved in this effort.

Interested in making a positive impact not only on the local and national scale, but also internationally, in 2016, Dr. Rahimi initiated annual shared decision-making workshops at Iran’s Tabriz University of Medical Science. “I have this opportunity to go to Iran every year and train Iranian health care professionals on patient-centred care and shared decision-making.” She remains passionate and optimistic about what can be done when people come together. “I am passionate about my multidisciplinary research and committed to contribute in improvement of health care systems in Quebec, Canada and globally.”

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