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The Health and Clinical Outcomes Research, Health Data Science Student Spotlight Series: Jennifer Nahm. (’24)


Jennifer Nahm (’24) is a second-year student in the Master of Health Data Science program in the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Young woman with long brown hair and glasses.
Jennifer Nahm, M.S. ('24)

As she prepares for graduation, she reflected on her time and memorable experiences in the program, her thoughts about the field of Health Data Science, and gave advice to students preparing to start the program.  

What inspired you to pursue health data science? 

I wanted to combine my interest in health care with my interest in working with data and seeing the trends/relationships that may be hidden within. Along with my previous education, I’ve had experiences working as a pharmacy technician where I gained an understanding of health care from a more patient-centered side. I wanted to explore health care from a more back-end role and see how I could make a difference there. 

What are your future aspirations or career plans upon completing the program? 

I want to be able to work with data, whether as a data scientist or data analyst. I would prefer to work within the world of health care as I have much experience with health care already, but I’m open to working in various fields. For example, I have a summer internship lined up that is not health care related, but it will still allow me to use what I learned in this program and could be a stepping stone to a permanent job or another opportunity with a different company.  

Why is the field of health data science important? 

Health data science is important because there is so much health care-related data that needs to be analyzed, and this data can be used to make positive changes in health care. For example, health data scientists can help generate predictive models to determine the risk of developing specific diseases, which could then be used by medical practitioners to assess their patients’ disease risk and provide specialized treatment or prevention plans for them. Health data science can help improve existing or develop new processes so that we waste less time and money that could then be reinvested in the health care system, improve health outcomes and find new ways for preventing disease in the first place. 

Can you share a memorable experience or project from your time in the program? 

For our predictive modeling/machine learning class, we were tasked to complete a group project where we developed regression and classification models. Our professor let us choose whatever datasets we wanted to use, and since I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, I suggested to my group to make classification models based on the popularity of her music on Spotify. Being able to base a school project around a personal interest of mine allowed me to have fun with it, and I was able to find some interesting insights about it. 

How has your involvement in extracurricular activities or research enhanced your academic journey? 

Being a teaching assistant for a class I’ve taken before has been a rewarding experience. I assist with the Foundations in Outcomes Research class that most students in the program take in their first year, and it has been interesting to see the various ways that other students answer the assignment prompts. When you’re taking the class, you don’t get to see what other students come up with, so with this position, I get to learn about the diverse topics and research papers that the students write about.  

What skills or knowledge have you gained that you believe will benefit your future career? 

One of the biggest skills I’ve developed from this program is being able to utilize and understand documentation and reference files for programming languages. Often when you’re coding, you have an idea of how you want to accomplish a task, but you may not have the proper way of doing it in mind. This is where documentation or other online resources can help. They often provide examples of how to accomplish a similar task or show you how various functions are meant to be used. They also help reference information you’ve learned before but haven’t committed to memory. 

What advice would you give to incoming students interested in HDS? 

I definitely recommend getting a head start when it comes to coding, since it is a big part of this program and the career of a health data scientist. The summer before I started this program, I followed along with Harvard’s free online Introduction to Computer Science (CS50x) class, where they touched on the basics of coding, including Python and SQL. Since my first two classes in the program focused on those languages, the online resource helped me feel prepared. However, you don’t need to go down the same route I did. There are a lot of informational videos on YouTube that help you understand the basics of various coding languages and would give a glimpse into what a data scientist needs to be able to do. 

About the Health Data Science, M.S. 

Saint Louis University's Master of Science in Health Data Science is designed to prepare students for a career in today's data-driven health care industry. Successful data scientists possess an artful ability to blend, synthesize and communicate data for use in clinical decisions by patients and providers, as well as advancing quality improvement efforts across health systems. 

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About the Department of Health and Clinical Outcomes Research 

The mission of the Department of Health and Clinical Outcomes Research is to serve as the collaborative bridge between divisions, departments, and colleges/schools across medicine and the health sciences to support methodologically rigorous research to solve complex health problems. The Department of Health and Clinical Outcomes Research is a scholarly community of faculty, staff and students committed to strengthening the delivery and outcomes of medical care through education and training programs, innovative research, and consulting services.