"Wisdom begins with wonder."
Dr Jenny Newman MBChB Hons. MPhil. FHEA
University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, CH64 7TE
My work aims to use natural language processing techniques to gain meaning from the veterinary clinical narrative, allowing understanding of the where, when, why and how of illnesses affecting companion animals in the UK on a large scale.
My medical and epidemiological background, and desire to improve animal health and welfare, form the ideal foundations as I gain new skills in my journey into a fledgling veterinary health informatics career.
Natural language processing
My PhD, facilitated by the Health e-Research Centre (HeRC_Farr) Doctoral Training Programme, aims to develop techniques to automate the computational identification of the nature of presentations to small animal clinicians, directly from the free-text recorded routinely during consultations.
Analysis of the nature of language used by clinicians and identification of markers for syndrome presentations, has enabled the development of case screening tools with roles in syndromic surveillance, clinical decision support and risk factor analysis.
For me this project is the perfect fusion of my interests and, in addition to the important aims of the work itself, provides me the opportunity to develop an adaptable skill set that will be of immense value in my future career.
My long term goal is to establish myself as an educator and a facilitator of research-led learning. I draw this distinction from teaching because I firmly believe that the prime role of a teacher is to enable learning, by creating a suitable environment and stimulating exploration of ideas and concepts.
Beginning whilst still at school in the early nineties I have enjoyed assisting others in fulfilling their potential and developing their own learning strategies. I have continued to embrace this both formally and informally.
Within the University I contribute to the Introduction to Veterinary Epidemiology modules for Veterinary Science and BioVeterinary Science undergraduates. I am always keen to encourage undergraduates to gain research experience via Extra Mural Studies placements, dissertation projects and by relating the concepts explored within their course to real-life examples. It is paramount that students gain an understanding of the fundaments of epidemiology and grasp their relevance to their future practice.
Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of health related events and determinants; medicine applied to groups rather than individuals. Epidemiology allows us to see the big picture, and provides the potential to improve it.
I relish the challenge of making a subject that at first appears dry and difficult, interesting, relevant and important, a learning challenge worth embracing.
A career in epidemiology provides the real potential to improve animal health and welfare whilst exploring all manner of subject areas, to date it has led me to research; vector-host distributions, dog aggression, antimicrobial prescribing practices, neglected zoonoses and now develop techniques for syndromic surveillance via veterinary free-text.
With our ability to breed, domesticate and farm other animals comes a huge responsibility for their welfare. It is a real privelege to be able to work towards improving the welfare of animals through advancing our understanding of them and their needs. The unifying factor in every research project that I have undertaken has been the potential, and desire, to improve animal health and welfare.
A visit to Dogs Trust in 2002, looking to give a home to a medium sized crossbreed, resulted in my first introduction to the wonderful world of greyhounds. From that day on I've striven to raise awareness of the welfare challenges faced by these beautiful animals, and been lucky enough to share my life with them too.
My current research, aiming to increase our understanding of why and when animals present to veterinary surgeons, and to surveil for syndromes in real time via the veterinary free text, has real potential to improve the health and welfare of companion animals.