Women in AI
Elsa M. Cabral
For Elsa M. Cabral, VP of client services and logistics at LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services, her AI journey started by improving the quality of experience for both employees and customers by simplifying processes and removing non-value work — allowing human employees to focus on more important tasks while AI handles the rest.
Elsa says there are many specific opportunities for healthcare businesses to utilize AI and reap significant benefits. This includes the ability to scale personalized interactions and increase access to healthcare, as well as using advanced data science to connect people to their health. She also acknowledged AI’s role in empowering people to be more active in their own healthcare journey, which can better enable them to make informed decisions with the support of insights derived from high-volume data.
“AI can also enable the proactive engagement of people in the prevention of disease, perhaps with the data collected from screening or using wearables, thus providing information proactively so that people can prevent the onset of disease,” she says.
Having spent most of her career in healthcare, specifically community health, she has become more interested in leadership and people-oriented roles. As an innately curious person, Elsa says she is always asking questions and looking for ways to change how people do things in order to solve problems and create value.
“I thrive in complexity,” she says. “And what can be more complex than human behavior? Thanks to my current role, with 20 million people interactions a year, I have lots of opportunities to be curious and to solve human health-related problems.”
Elsa referred to the last five years of intelligent automation experimentation as a “natural evolution” that is allowing the firm to find ways to enhance experiences, making them frictionless and meaningful for employees and customers.
“We are making some great progress, building internal capabilities and engaging a broader team of employees who are also very interested in AI,” she says.
LifeLabs recently had an opportunity to explore the use of AI in air transportation, with the goal to increase healthcare in communities where it’s not easily accessible, and safely transport medical supplies and human specimens. The subject fascinated Elsa, who believes AI technology has the power to usher in significant change.
“Permitting autonomous flying vehicles in commercial airspace is a change-maker and will provide access to essential health services to many who today are without,” she says.
As a student, Elsa gravitated toward math and science. She excelled at both subjects and enjoyed learning about them. But she debated her career path and ultimately chose to pursue a degree in toxicology from the University of Toronto. She then pursued a Master of Health Science degree in occupational and environment health from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“I like to influence change at scale with populations of people, so this seemed like a great fit,” she says.
When asked what could be done to help more women pursue a similar career path, Elsa said she believes the process starts at home with parents and caregivers.
“If we try to get women in STEM fields, we have to do this in the community,” she says. “How do we build confidence in girls so they believe in themselves and do the things they love doing, as opposed to doing what people think they should do? By instilling confidence in girls at home, at their schools, in the community, we will then enable girls to pursue their dreams. For some, these dreams will be about math, science, technology.”