Champions for Children: Meet Elyse Passmore

Dr Elyse Passmore is a biomedical engineer working in the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

The Good Friday Appeal proudly supports her research into artificial intelligence (AI). To recognise her work in the lead up to the appeal, we spoke to Elyse about how AI is making waves in the world of healthcare.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I am a biomedical engineer working for the Hugh Williamson Gait Analysis Laboratory as the Head Engineer. The Gait Analysis Laboratory is a specialist clinical service for analysing walking disorders in children. The most common condition we see is children with cerebral palsy. Using a state-of-the-art 3D motion capture system, we can understand how the bones and muscles work during walking. Knowing this, our team of physios, surgeons and engineers can plan personalised treatment for each child.

I recently received a Clinician Scientist Fellowship from the MCRI to support my research which takes motion analysis out of the clinical setting and into the home using AI. In collaboration with the Developmental Imaging Group at the MCRI, I am developing tools that automatically track a person’s movement from a smartphone video and analyse their movement pattern. This technology is being used in the early identification of infants with cerebral palsy from a single smartphone video recorded at home. These AI approaches will allow us to create tools to screen for cerebral palsy in early infancy at the population level.

How is artificial intelligence making a difference in the world of healthcare?

AI is being used in a many ways in healthcare. We are only at the tip of the iceberg with so much research and development going into this area. I see AI making a difference in two key areas: natural language processing and image analysis. Natural language processing enables a computer to read and understand text. It is being used in systems that can review large amounts of clinical notes to identify improvements in care that require big picture thinking. On the other hand, image analysis has enormous potential, particularly to aid in diagnosing conditions. For instance, detection of skin cancers. Image analysis is also my area of expertise. I use AI algorithms to analyse video and identify major joints in the body and track a person’s movement.

The future of AI in healthcare will be to support clinicians with improved diagnostics. AI also allows us to do research at a scale we have never done before. AI has the potential to screen for conditions at a population level, detect relationships in healthcare data not evident to a human observer and deliver new knowledge.

You’re passionate about promoting women’s participation in STEM. What advice would you give to young women who are thinking about a career in STEM?

Firstly, if you enjoy it, go for it! I have seen more and more women being active in the STEM areas, and it is excellent. For me, engineering has offered a rewarding career where I work in an area that I didn’t know existed when I started university. Something I love about my job is that I am never bored. New ideas and discoveries are made every day, and you continue to learn new things throughout your career.

For those considering a career in STEM, I recommend getting involved. There are many great opportunities out there to get a taste for what it’s like to be part of the community of women in STEM. Check out Code Like a Girl, Biomechanics Research and Innovation Challenge or look for internships or work experience opportunities.

What three things would you take to a desert island and why?

Well, this was a tricky question. I am a rather practical person, so I would take a large pot to boil water, a magnifying glass to light fires, and my dog because I will need some company on the island.

If you’d like to donate to the Good Friday Appeal, you can donate online, any time, at www.goodfridayappeal.com.au/donate/

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