Student Innovator Spotlight: Aryan Azmi

A Master of Public Health student is part of a team conducting multiple public health programs across Canada focused on reducing barriers to care for vulnerable populations.


Tell us about yourself and your research.

I am a second-year Master of Public Health (MPH) student specializing in Health Policy and Management. During the tenure of my program, I have become involved in a myriad of projects that all have the same overarching goal: to identify and address barriers to care that exist for underserved and vulnerable populations. One of these projects, which was proposed by the Cancer Strategic Clinical Network (SCN), aims to identify gaps in cancer care for a set of historically underserved and vulnerable populations in Alberta. Another project pertains to reducing wait-times for rehabilitation services for rural residents in northern Ontario. The third project that I collaborate on is the Bridge Healing initiative. Bridge Healing aims to improve the quality of life for those experiencing homelessness through the creation of a transitory housing solution.

Tell us about the new project you developed for the University of Alberta’s Hospital Emergency Department.

This project, titled “Illumination Through Evaluation,” aims to assess the costs that patient homelessness has on the University of Alberta Hospital’s Emergency Department. More specifically, this is an evaluation of non-medically attributable costs that are directly related with housing instability of patients. In this project, non-medically relevant visits will be compared for patients with stable housing versus those with unstable housing. This will give us an idea about the costs that are incurred by the hospital due to visits that are non-medical and that are due to reasons associated with unstable housing. This project is sponsored by the Institute of Health Economics (IHE), and enjoys the supervision of individuals from Alberta Health Services, University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, University of Alberta Hospital, and the IHE.

What motivated you to develop this project?

As we were compiling evidence for the Bridge Healing project, I noticed that there was a lack of concrete evaluations that looked at how much patient homelessness was costing the health system. This struck me as odd but also motivated me to create such an evaluation myself. As such, when the opportunity arose, I proposed this idea to IHE and they approved the project. 

What is one challenge you want to solve through your work?

It is difficult to come up with a solution to a problem if there is insufficient data available. Fortunately, this project (which is funded by a grant provided to IHE by Alberta Health Services) can create that data. Ultimately, it is my hope that this data can help decision-makers when considering costs and benefits of programming that addresses homelessness.

How might this project have a positive effect on Albertans?

I have learned in the School of Public Health that public resources are limited and while it would be amazing if all the programs that a society needed could be funded, that is simply not realistic. What can be done however, is to improve the operations of the system in order to make the most of the limited resources available. In 2019, a review of Alberta Health Services (AHS) was conducted to help find ways to improve the health system and access to services for Albertans. It is our hope that this data will inform decision-makers about the extent of the costs that are incurred by the health system due to housing instability, and that this will assist decision makers in implementing changes that will free up capacity for the system, make Alberta’s healthcare system more efficient, and lead to better results for the patients who are experiencing housing instability.

What makes the U of A a great place to do your work and research?

As part of the core courses that we have to take for our master’s program, I had to take a leadership class by Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti. In his class, Dr. Francescutti was very insistent that if we were to take one thing away from his class, it would be to “care.” I found this “care” to be very unique to the University of Alberta. During the course of my program, I have had many interactions with various faculty members in different capacities (sometimes for projects, sometimes for guidance) and in every interaction these individuals have gone above and beyond expectations to assist me in resolving whatever matter it was that I had approached them for. Furthermore, the faculty of the university are extremely enthusiastic about the projects that they are involved with and they are more than happy to allow students to collaborate with them. This is not something that they HAVE to do, but yet they choose to do so. I believe this reflects the level of care that they possess for teaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders.

Is there anything else you want to share about your work and/or this project?

The process of creating knowledge is an ever-evolving one, and this project is no exception. Our project aims to bring a variety of experiences and backgrounds together to ensure that all perspectives are considered in the creation of our report. As such, if anyone who is reading this article has knowledge, expertise, or comments that they believe can assist us in the project, please do not hesitate to contact me.

About Aryan

Aryan is a second-year Master of Public Health (MPH) student specializing in Health Policy and Management. His previous professional experience includes formulating management, financial, and logistical strategies for various healthcare operators. Aryan was awarded the Public Health Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship by the School of Public Health for displaying exceptional potential as a leader in public health.