​Health Data for Pakistan Conference​​​

​The Heath Data for Pakistan Conference was organized by The Health Data Science Centre under The Clinical and Translational Research Incubator (CITRIC) at the Aga Khan University, Karachi. The three-day event, held from March 2-4, 2023, served as a nexus, bringing together industry experts, professionals, and enthusiasts with the purpose of exploring and discussing knowledge exchange and collaboration within the field of health data science. The conference's primary objective was to disseminate the results of HDSC's analyses, focusing on the examination and utilization of local digital data and enhancing our understanding of the health data ecosystem in Pakistan. Additionally, it aimed to serve as a platform for presenting and discussing case studies, methodologies, and breakthroughs in the field of health data science. With emphasis on both communicable and non-communicable diseases, alongside maternal and child health, the conference was designed to underscore the transformative capacity of data-centric methodologies in tackling pressing healthcare predicaments. The integration of preliminary workshops on AI-driven methodologies in healthcare and text analytics further helped to amplify participants' grasp of fundamental concepts and applications within the field. 

​Pre-Conference Workshops​

The workshops provided ​a broad overview of AI applications in healthcare, introduced AI-based techniques and tools in health, and highlighted the impact of AI on mental health. The workshops were attended by healthcare professionals, research students and data scientists.  

1. Improving Health using Al-​​based Techniques and Tools: Mental Health as a Case Study

The first workshop was facilitated by Dr. Nida Saddaf Khan, Senior Instructor, CITRIC Health Data Science Centre, AKU The learning objectives of this workshop were multifaceted, aimed at providing attendees with a comprehensive understanding of the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and healthcare. Firstly, the workshop sought to offer a broad overview of the extensive applications of AI within the healthcare sector. This entailed exploring the various ways AI is revolutionizing healthcare practices. Secondly, the workshop aimed to introduce participants to AI-based techniques and tools that are reshaping the landscape of healthcare. Attendees had the opportunity to explore into the intricacies of these technological advancements. Lastly, the workshop focussed on a compelling case study, examining the profound impact of AI on mental health.

Renowned national and international speakers, representing diverse disciplines, shared their expertise and knowledge in these areas. The diverse audience in attendance reflected a growing surge of interest in the profound and transformative potential of AI in healthcare. The sessions were thoughtfully structured to cover a wide spectrum of topics, from introductory insights to in-depth discussions, fostering a holistic understanding of the subject matter. Session 1 set the foundation with an introduction to AI by Dr. Nida Saddaf Khan, followed by Ms. Salma Tajuddin's elucidation on AI basics, and Dr. Nasir Uddin's exploration of AI's impact on healthcare. Dr. Muhammad Usman Arif rounded off the session by introducing AI-based tools. Session 2, focused on AI in mental health, was equally enlightening, with Dr. Gulnaz Anjum presenting the diverse applications of AI in this domain. Dr. Nida Saddaf Khan then provided a compelling case study, highlighting the utilization of AI and smart devices in managing anxiety and OCD.

2. Text Analytics in​​ Healthcare

Led by Dr Zarmeen Nasim, Senior Instructor, CITRIC Health Data Science Centre, AKU. the second workshop provided attendees with a comprehensive insight into the practical applications of text analytics within the healthcare sector. Dr. Nasim shared some real-world applications of text analytics. Through various examples, the session shed light on the potential benefits and challenges in the healthcare domain, sparking lively discussions. The workshop included few exciting demonstrations that provided an eye-opening view into the practical uses of NLP tools in the medical field.

The Department of Medicine, AKU and Ms. Salma Tajuddin, Senior Instructor, CITRIC Health Data Science Centre, AKU helped attendees conceptualize NLP-based healthcare projects and discuss potential research grants. The positive feedback from participants and facilitators alike confirmed the workshop's succ​ess and laid the groundwork for future endeavours in this fascinating intersection of healthcare and technology.​​

​​​​​​Conference​​​ Day 1: Inaugural Day 

On the inaugural day of the conference, attendees received a warm welcome from distinguished speakers, including Dr. Adil Haider, the Dean of the Medical College at AKU, President Dr. Sulaiman Shahabuddin, AKU, and Dr. Carl Amrhein, the Provost & Vice President, Academic, AKU. A diverse group of national and international experts came together to foster networking and collaboration opportunities. Attendees were inspired by data science presentations and engaged in thought-provoking research discussions. With over 550 sign-ups, the conference was a resounding success.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, Professor; Chief Strategy Officer of Population Health;  Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, commenced the event with an insightful talk on Pakistan's Burden of Disease. Following this, Dr. Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra, Health and Finance Minister, shared valuable experiences and achievements in data driven healthcare decision-making in the province of KP. Next, Dr Sir Aziz Sheikh, Professor of Primary Care Research & Development, Director of the Usher Institute, and Dean of Data at the University of Edinburgh, discussed the importance and potential of Health IT in advancing human health.

The concluding segment of the first day featured an engaging Panel Discussion on "Global North and South Collaborations to Advance Health Data Science in Pakistan," moderated by Dr. Zahra Hoodbhoy, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at Aga Khan University. The esteemed panellists included Dr. Zainab Samad, Chair of the Department of Medicine at AKU, Prof. Sir Aziz Sheikh, Dr. Ali Mokdad, and Miss Farhana Alarakhiva, Chief Data Innovation Officer, AKU. The discussion explored innovative ways of leveraging collaborative efforts between the global North and South to advance health data science in Pakistan, paving the way for transformative advancements in the healthcare landscape of the country.

Inaugural Networking Dinner​​

The day culminated with a formal inaugural dinner, providing an opportunity for participants to unwind and connect after a productive session on AI in healthcare.​​

​​​​​​Conference Day 2: Themes​​

​The conference day was structured around distinct themes for each session on non-communicable diseases, maternal and child health, and infectious diseases. Each theme  kicked off with a keynote presentation, followed by a session on methodology, an application session and finally concluded with a panel discussion. This allowed for an in-depth examination of healthcare issues and innovative approaches to their solutions.

​​​Non-Communicable Diseases

The Non-communicable disease's theme session was chaired by Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of the Precision Medicine Lab at NCBC. Dr. Mark Sendak, the Population Health, and Data Science Lead at the Duke Institute for Health Innovation, delivered an insightful keynote talk on predicting decompensation in the Cardiac Care Unit. 

Following Dr. Sendak, Dr. Bashir Hanif, the Executive and Medical Director at the Tabba Heart Institute in Karachi led the methodology session. Dr. Hanif shed light on data challenges in Non-Communicable Diseases and shared the inspiring story of establishing the Cardiac Registry of Pakistan (CROP).

Dr. Christine Ngaruiya, Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale University, presented the Application Session via a video call. Dr. Ngaruiya talked about the development and use of natural processing tools for understanding sex differences in acute myocardial infarctions.

The first theme concluded with a stimulating panel discussion on leveraging data-driven decision-making to enhance NCD outcomes. The sessions collectively provided valuable insights into the impactful application of data science approaches in the realm of non-communicable diseases.

Maternal and Child Health

The second theme of the conference was maternal and child health led by Dr. Zahra Hoodbhoy, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at Aga Khan University. The keynote on utilizing data science approaches to improve maternal and child health outcomes was delivered by Dr. Bart Bijnens, an ICREA Research Professor from Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) in Barcelona, Spain.

Ms. Sheena Gill, the President and CEO of Americas and a founding team member of Cognitive Care, presented the effective use of data analytics in maternal and child health in the methodology session, following which Dr. Imran Nisar, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at Aga Khan University, shared insights on the implementation of big data in maternal and child health.

The last session for the maternal and child health theme was a panel discussion focusing on how health data can empower women and children, thus fostering a thought-provoking exchange of ideas and experiences.

Infectious Diseases

The conference's concluding theme was dedicated to infectious disease prevention. Dr. Nosheen Nasir, Vice Chair of Research and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Aga Khan University, was the moderator for this theme.

The keynote talk was delivered by Dr. Mark Jit, Professor of Vaccine Epidemiology and Head of the Department at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Jit provided valuable insights into health economic modeling in communicable disease prevention. Following this was a methodology session on infectious disease modeling led by Dr. Bilal Ahmed Usmani, Assistant Professor and Section Head of Community Health Sciences at Aga Khan University. Next, Mr. Ahsan Memon, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of EKKEL, discussed data utilization for clinical decision-making, sharing invaluable lessons learned from practical experiences in this field.

​​​​Panel Discussion: How Universities can collaborate on Health Data Science

​​The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Nida Saddaf Khan and among the esteemed panellists were Dr. Sajjad Haider, Dr. Muhammad Hanif, Dr. Hassan Mohy-ud-Din. The panellists engaged in a thoughtful discourse on the imperative collaboration between universities representing different academic disciplines to develop Data Science-based solutions for healthcare. The panel emphasized the importance of building strong relationships between universities and creating platforms for data sharing, particularly highlighting the role of universities as hubs for data-driven innovation. The discussion touched upon the critical issue of data governance and how it poses a challenge in academic collaborations, given the ethical and legal constraints surrounding healthcare data. Panellists discussed the need for universities to work closely with hospitals while considering the economic solutions, especially for Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and AKU collaboration is highlighted as these institute are setting an example how they can work in close collaboration for providing the solution to the real-world health problems. Similarly, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) has established a successful system of collaboration between hospitals and the computer industry. Overall, the panel agreed that while collaboration is necessary to tackle healthcare problems, challenges such as data governance and ethical considerations should be addressed through careful planning, regulatory frameworks, and ethical guidelines.


The conference's highlight was an array of impressive pitches presented by esteemed universities across Pakistan, including IBA, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), and GIKI. These pitches showcased innovative health data-analytic techniques to address various health-related problems. LUMS emerged as the winner of the Pitch competition with their exceptional concept—an App predicting migraines, enabling individuals to plan their daily activities effectively. In recognition of their brilliant idea, LUMS was awarded PKR 200,000.

The event concluded with closing remarks delivered by Dr. Zainab Samad, the Director of the Health Data Science Centre and the Ibn-e-Sina Professor & Chair of Medicine at Aga Khan University. Her insightful remarks marked the end of an enriching and successful conference.​​​​​