Meet Paulina, a final-year medical student exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to solve healthcare delivery problems in West Africa. Read on to see how she’s using what she’s learned from her courses to not only expand educational opportunities in her community, but tackle community health projects through programming and data analysis.
I was introduced to the world of AI by Coursera and now I cannot stay away. I joined Coursera in November 2019 because I was curious about building software to tackle problems with healthcare delivery and had heard the buzz around AI and machine learning (ML).
I care about people being in good health. I am close to completing medical school, and while I’m a beginner in my tech journey, one way I can already contribute to the community is by sharing what I’m learning. I have been volunteering for various initiatives since 2017, working in about seven different communities in the Ashanti region of Ghana. After the pandemic started, for example, I took the opportunity to write an article exploring the use of local gins as hand sanitizers. I interviewed an expert chemical scientist to analyze its effectiveness and find better ways of leveraging these findings. My report was aired on national television.
To increase my knowledge and skills, I’ve taken seven AI-related courses and one writing course on Coursera so far. These include Machine Learning by Stanford University and a Guided Project in Creating Neural Networks from Scratch in TensorFlow. Coursera has provided me with a great platform to study what I want to study—in a systematic manner and at my own pace. I have begun practising what I’m learning on real-world projects. I have a long way to go but I have imbibed Coursera’s advice to “keep learning!”
Paulina’s advice: Don’t be discouraged by the time it takes to reach your goal. Start with an hour or two a day, and keep it going: a day at a time.
Here are some of the courses that I completed:
- Machine Learning by Stanford University
- Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) by University of Michigan
- Python Data Structures by University of Michigan
- Using Python to Access Web Data by University of Michigan
- How Google does Machine Learning by Google Cloud
- Launching into Machine Learning by Google Cloud
- Neural Network from Scratch in TensorFlow, a guided project
- Writing and Editing: Word Choice and Word Order by University of Michigan
Here is how I used what I learned in programming and data analysis to increase my impact on my community:
- I am working on a research project in child health for some communities in Ghana. With a few lines of code, I found a quick way to extract data from questionnaires for easier analysis. This would have taken hours to do manually!
- I’m also part of a teaming building software to solve blood donation and delivery problems in Ghana and Nigeria. Our solution required us to incorporate a geolocation API — which I learned how to do specifically on Coursera.
On a more personal note, I was born to farmers, and raised in a farming community. I often joke with my friends that, “once a farm girl, always a farm girl.” Beyond sentimental reasons, I would like to employ the skills I gain to enhance food production and distribution. That’s the beauty and versatility of gaining software development skills—they can be employed everywhere.
One last thing I wanted to mention as a fun fact: I volunteer with Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa.W), an organization that trains young women from all over Africa in tech and finance. In December 2019, Yaa.W organized Africa’s first Women in Machine Learning conference. For the 100 women selected, they were each required to complete two specific ML-related courses on Coursera, as prerequisites for the conference! Learn more about this program and how you can get involved here.