Three conferences, flights to San Francisco, Jersey City, and Boston – November is a crazy but exciting month! First, my collaborator Adriana Meza Soria (2nd year Software Engineering Ph.D. student) and I won the second place at the Student Design Challenge at the 2018 American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium! We got featured at the ICS School Newsletter (read more about the project in this post). Second, on the day after the AMIA conference ends, on November 8th, I passed my comprehensive exam (no revision!!). Third and fourth, I attended the first accessible voice workshop at CSCW, and presented my interview study (short talk #4599) at ASHA 2018. It’s impossible to blog about all of them, so let me share the AMIA design challenge, which will become my dissertation project.
I have to say that the story behind this experience has been an exciting journey. I initially found out about the AMIA Student Design Challenge in Winter 2018. During that time, I’ve also been learning from other doctoral students about conversational agents (the voice-only dialog systems embedded in personal technologies and devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home) and its potential to help children with communication impairments (which originated from my clinical background as a speech language pathologist). I have attempted to establish several potential collaborations with graduate students across Informatics, Education, and Software Engineering to investigate some shared interests in this place. While taking a graduate writing class and peer- reviewing each other’s writing, I found my collaborator Adriana Meza Soria, a graduate student in software engineering. I realized her interests in software design knowledge to be fascinating for me. Collaboratively, in Spring 2018, we attended some local workshops by Amazon on how to develop Alexa Skills (the conversational agent for Amazon Echo) and integrate new gadgets such as Echo Button to design multimodal interaction. This leads to our final AMIA proposal submission, which gained surprisingly positive responses from the judges across both fields of medical informatics and human-computer interaction during the two tiers selection process. We are selected for both a poster presentation and a final oral presentation to compete for the top three places, along with two other teams from Columbia University (who developed a hybrid Alexa Skill and Facebook Messenger app that calculates and analyze nutritional consumption for diabetes intervention) and UC San Diego (who developed a home-based imaging technology for monitoring macular degeneration – a leading cause for vision loss – in elderly individuals). It is worth mentioning that we are the only team who designed for children with disabilities as a vulnerable population that needs a collaborative care approach rather than adults who are capable of managing their health. At our poster session, we received great attraction from multiple individuals. A professor from the University of Washington emailed us before our attendance, as her students in nursing have requested to interview with us regarding our design. Several physicians and informaticists from Stanford Children’s Hospital, UC Davis, University of Pittsburgh, and Mayo Clinic not only gave us great feedback on issues such as interoperability between multiple contexts and data sharing and privacy but also shared their own user experience and perspectives on these voice technologies as parents and health providers.
At the Poster Session: Adriana Meza Soria (2nd year Software Engineering Ph.D. student) and Yao Du (3rd year Informatics Ph.D. student) of University of California Irvine. Photo Credit: Uba Backonja, PhD, MS-RN, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine & School of Nursing.
I think winning the second place is beyond our anticipation, as our design is only in its initial conceptual design phase, compared to the first-place team from Columbia University who has been investigating their plan since 2017 and has been previously selected as the top 5 finalists of Alexa Diabetes Challenge. This Columbia team, led by Ph.D. student Elliot G. Mitchell, is a returning champion who has won the AMIA Student Design Challenge 2017. The team has a well-established collaboration with Columbia Medical School, initial data from a pilot study, and a more sophisticated implementation plan. Reflecting on how the first-place team frame their research and address their dissemination plan, I’ve learned how to project the future work of my design to address the feedback from the AMIA community – which put a heavy emphasis on clinical application and research efficacy (in addition to innovation). Additionally, this experience highlights the enormous potential of resources that I have not been able to leverage at UC Irvine, as we have several researchers who are active in the AMIA community, as well as our UCI Medical Center and affiliated Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). Obtaining early feedback on this design before I formulate a concrete dissertation topic indeed allows me to train myself as a critical thinker who designs and conducts research that integrates multi-disciplinary perspectives. I plan to continue the design and development of this project in the upcoming years, through obtaining an IRB protocol, connecting with these stakeholders of interests, and ongoing design and development of this project as a potential dissertation topic. I am extremely grateful for my collaborator Adriana, our doctoral peers in Informatics and Education, and our advisors (Katie Salen Tekinbas and André van der Hoek) for their support during this wonderful journey. I highly recommend this competition to future students in ICS and I am more than happy to support more UCI teams in these competitions. Here’s a picture of all the three finalist teams. WOMAN POWER!
Student Design Challenge teams. From left to right: Yao Du and Adriana Meza Soria of University of California Irvine; Elliott Mitchell and Lisa Grossman of Columbia University; Sally Baxter and Helena Gali of University of California San Diego. Photo Credit: AMIA Communication Team.