Amazon Web Services Honors Dr. Azizi Seixas for Driving Health Care Innovation

Azizi Seixas, Ph.D., founding director of the Media and Innovation Lab (The MIL) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been chosen by Amazon Web Services (AWS) as one of 10 U.S. Education Champions. The inaugural program showcases innovators driving digital transformation with cloud computing in the areas of teaching, learning, research, and academic medicine. AWS recognized Dr. Seixas and his fellow honorees at the IMAGINE 2022 conference in Seattle in August.

Dr. Seixas speaking at an event.
“Being honored by AWS in this first cohort of U.S. Education Champions is validation for the vision that we have,” said Dr. Seixas.

According to AWS, the world’s most broadly adopted cloud platform, the Education Champions program will amplify the stories and voices of these visionary leaders and support innovation with AWS services. While it is not a grant, honorees will receive access to grants and opportunities to expand the impact of their work aimed at transforming and advancing education.

“Being honored by AWS in this first cohort of U.S. Education Champions is validation for the vision that we have,” said Dr. Seixas, who also is associate director for the Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Miller School. “We want to reimagine health care. We want to reimagine academic medicine. We want to reimagine health and well-being across five core verticals: education, research, clinical care, venture opportunities, service, and outreach.

“We are the inaugural champions, and Amazon has asked us to help make this into a global program,” he said.

Dr. Seixas and his nine fellow honorees.
AWS recognized Dr. Seixas and his nine fellow honorees at the IMAGINE 2022 conference in Seattle.

Innovation Taking Place at the Miller School

Dr. Seixas is known internationally as a thought leader in precision and personalized population health, digital health technology and innovation, and his use of novel analytical tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to address challenging public health issues. Among his other roles at the Miller School, Dr. Seixas is leading the University of Miami’s Digital Therapeutics vertical in the Institute of Data Science and Computing.

In its announcement about this year’s Educational Champions, AWS highlighted Dr. Seixas’s digital twin project, which analyzes the link between poor sleep, environmental factors, and chronic illness, using off-the-shelf wearable and nearable devices. The goal of the research is to study associations between an individual’s underlying biomedical health parameters, environmental factors such as air quality, light and noise pollution, and conditions such as sleep apnea, heart disease, and dementia in underserved and disenfranchised communities.

AI can be applied to data collected from in-home and on-body sensors to create an individual’s digital twin, through which potential interventions and treatment options can be applied, and potential outcomes evaluated, before applying them in practice.

This is only one of Dr. Seixas’s many initiatives aimed at creating new paradigms in health and wellness, leading to the delivery of precise, personalized medicine.

Dr. Seixas speaking to a man at the AWS event.
Being honored by the AWS will expose Dr. Seixas’s research to potential collaborations and funding beyond traditional funding sources, he said.

Dr. Seixas is leading the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Social, Emotional Learning (STEMSEL) program at the Miller School, which aims to develop and cultivate innovative ways to disseminate trusted social and emotional mental health information that engages the public.

“Each of the core verticals has its own value propositions. Our value proposition for education is that we want to infuse and create a culture of innovation throughout the University of Miami. We are doing so by creating an innovative curriculum as well as educational experiences where we can create the new phenotype of student, the new phenotype of professional, the new phenotype of physician, the new phenotype of the scientist,” Dr. Seixas said. “The result will be the innovator-scientist, innovator-clinician, innovator-educator. We are democratizing and decentralizing access to innovation in order to create that culture.”

Projects in the research vertical include the NIH-funded research aimed at improving heart health among rural and urban Latinos, of which the digital twin project is part.

“We’re tackling maternal mental health, to disadvantaged populations globally, through the use of virtual reality. Instead of using expensive headsets that cost $600, we’re teaming up with an organization through which we can source cardboard headsets for $30 and deliver high-quality digital mental health,” Dr. Seixas said.

“We’re also working on digital therapeutics and are about to roll out a project focused on aging, looking at how sleep and physical activity can reduce cognitive impairment. We’re using one of today’s most innovative cognitive assessments — a 10-minute assessment that uses digital neuro-signatures through augmented reality. The beauty of this assessment is that we can predict cognitive impairment and dementia 8 to 10 years before onset. That’s a huge game changer.”

Getting the Word Out

Being honored by the AWS will expose Dr. Seixas’s research to potential collaborations and funding beyond traditional funding sources, he said.

“In technology and innovation, you need networks. Getting NIH grants funded in this quickly changing space typically takes a year and half to two years,” Dr. Seixas said. “By getting into more diverse environments and platforms to reach people with the means to fund our work, we are able to potentially create something within six months. That’s unheard of in medical research.

“Already, based on this announcement, I was asked by the planners and organizers of one of the largest cloud technology conferences to give a talk.”

This is an opportunity for the Miller School and University of Miami to lead in South Florida’s quest to become the world’s new technology hub, according to Dr. Seixas.

Tags: Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Azizi Seixas, Institute of Data Science and Computing, Media and Innovation Lab, NIH funding