Becoming a Data Scientist: My Year-Long Hiatus from Medical School

An abridged version was also published on the UBC Master of Data Science blog

Part 1: Why I Did It?

In my second year of medical school, I decided to open an unfamiliar email entitled: “UBC Centennial Symposium on Health Informatics”. What was Health Informatics? I had no idea, but I intended to find out. The symposium featured the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and showcased their use of large population datasets to improve the quality of NHS services in various ways - by providing research support, industry development, and quality improvement. I was impressed with how advanced the NHS was in using data to actually improve care. I went into medicine because caring for and establishing relationships with patients fulfills a personal desire to help people one on one. Applying data science to healthcare seemed to provide the opportunity to positively impact millions at a time, in addition to one at a time.

So why now? Well, we are reaching a critical mass to drive healthcare’s transition to digital, following many other industries. This is a combination of more health data, better health data, the rapid growth in the field of data science, better and faster computation and a greater cultural shift in healthcare as a whole.

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The Mongol Rally (2015)

In the summer of 2015, Mike, Kevin and I went on an epic adventure.

Across 15,000km, 17 countries, and 35 days, we made our way from London, England to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, raising over $3000 for charity.

Below are the posts from the blog at the time, hosted here so they can live on forever:

Photos:

The Blog:

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What is a Website Address?

You open up your internet browser, type in a website address (URL) and within seconds, you arrive at your destination. But what goes on under the hood? How does typing in a URL load a webpage, and not just any webpage for that matter, but the unique webpage you requested?

Before we can discuss website addresses, we should ask what is a website? Take a website like reddit.com When we access Reddit and spend hours looking at pictures of cats, what we are actually doing is checking out the content on Reddit’s servers (or the content that it references on other servers).

Every server has its own unique IP Address (Internet Protocol Address). You can think about GPS Coordinates for a building address as being the real world equivalent of an IP Address. Every server has a unique IP address just like every building in the world has unique GPS Coordinates.

For example:

The ICICS Building at UBC Google Maps Server
GPS: 49.2611454,-123.2489258 IP Address: 216.58.193.78

note: for a massive website like Google Maps, it’s not just one server or the website would quickly crash, instead it’s many servers. For the sake of simplicity we’ll pretend it’s only one server.

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So you want to build a website for free?

My website (that you’re currently reading this on) is completely free. Well not completely free, I still have to pay for the domain name, but other than that there are no hosting fees, and it’s secure (https).

I thought I’d make a quick (and lazy) tutorial on how to get a freely hosted and secure website. This post is going to be a stub, and I’m assuming you already have a blog hosted on Github pages as a starting point. If you don’t already, there are a few good tutorials to get a Github pages blog up a running. Github kindly hosts these static pages. Here are a few tutorials to get started with Github pages and Jekyll blogs:


With your live Github pages jekyll blog in hand, let’s connect that to your personal domain with https. I’ll run through the following with my own website.

In order to have a website that is hosted for free (by Github), but is still secured (by Cloudflare), we’re going to have to redirect traffic. This starts with your domain provider (I’m using gandi.net). The web traffic will be redirected as follows, starting with someone typing in your domain into their browser.

your_domain.com -> Your domain provider (gandi.net) -> Cloudflare (secure) -> Github (free hosting)

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