Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Moustachio-ed Tim Trussell Returns to his Roots

One week after the Health User Group and I'm FINALLY able to pass on some great stories from the meeting! Boy oh boy, this backlog of blog posts has bothered me beyond belief. I'll be very pleased when I've caught up completely after this entry... I want to ensure I'm doing justice to everyone in an appropriate and timely fashion.

Last week's Health User Group meeting was notable for a few reasons. I would like to acknowledge Eugene Wen of CIHI who has stepped down as President of the executive committee after many years of sitting at the helm. Eugene steered a perfect route through the storm: he went out of his way to ensure that the mandate of the group - to support health industry professionals - was respected through and through. Health practitioners in Toronto, you'll be hard pressed to have as vocal and tenacious a champion again... thanks for all of your contributions, Eugene.

The second person I need to acknowledge is Ruth Croxford of ICES. I honestly don't know where to begin with Ruth. She's a tireless champion both of the Health User Group as well as the first person to step forward in order to support that community. Case in point: Ruth volunteered to not only research but deliver a large 'SAS Tips & Tricks' presentation specific to healthcare. The appreciative murmurs I heard running through the room told me that she hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Great job, Ruth, and thanks for personifying the spirit of the SAS user community so well.

Finally, I come to Mr. Tim Trussell. Those who know me are very well aware that Tim is a great friend of mine. Professionally and personally, he's been there for me above and beyond the call of duty.... and I'm not alone in this sentiment. In fact, Tim was the driving force (along with Ruth and Eugene) behind forming the health-specific user group around 5 years ago. His background is in epidemiology and statistics, meaning he speaks the language of the industry and understands the challenges, pains and priorities of this critical vertical. Given his demand as the analytics guru for SAS Canada, being able to secure his time for the meeting was a real coup and Tim certainly didn't disappoint (except in the patchy growth of his Movember moustache: to learn more and to sponsor him in this worthy cause, click here).

Tim's hour-long talk was on the topic of text analytics within the health industry, and I think it's fair to say that the presentation was both eye-opening and thought-provoking. Leveraging his intimate familiarity with all aspects of healthcare, Tim was able to bring forward non-Canadian examples of how text analytics is being used in new and dynamic ways in order to help parse health records, doctor's notes, journal articles, exit surveys, and much more. In fact, Tim's looking for some willing healthcare organizations here in Canada to help validate the utility of SAS' text analytics solution... and he's willing to make the solution available in order to do so! If this is of interest, definitely reach out to him via his email address to discuss further...

The meeting was a bit smaller than normal but this actually proved to be a boon, not a limitation. The intimacy of the room and the willingness of the presenters to engage with the audience ensured that the room was relaxed and ready to talk... and they sure did! I had a great conversation with a gentleman about the fact that it was Facebook's 'un-friend' day - ironic, considering that I was about to deliver a large social media-themed talk. All the same, I made note of some pleasant smiles and nods of understanding as I framed out SAS Canada's early social media forays specific to healthcare through the newly formed HUG LinkedIn group. A few individuals have already connected with me there and I'm looking forward to getting to know many more of you!

Tim was able to demonstrate the text analytics solution as a variety of scenarios and potential roadblocks were suggested by the group. Ruth's talk was punctuated by individuals validating or asking for further detail around one of her tips and tricks, and there was a lot of furious scribbling on SAS notepads. The sense of community and the desire to share knowledge was truly palpable, a consistent hallmark of this group. All in all, the meeting was a great success. It was really fun to watch Tim and the executive team help to set establish a warm, welcoming environment: my thanks to all of them for their assistance. I'll be posting the results of the evaluations in the LinkedIn group shortly for your feedback, and of course the presentations have already been posted at the Health user group site.

Next up: my manager is in Halifax attending the SHRUG meeting and will be guest-posting upon his return... and I learn to bellydance: with photographic evidence! Stay tuned...

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