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Staff Q&A: Quan Mai, research analyst, Enterprise Data Warehouse

Quan Mai

Quan Mai, research analyst at Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse (NMEDW), helps scientists and students at Feinberg with nearly every aspect of research data: assessing feasibility, extracting data, building reports and visualizing results.

Read a Q&A with Mai below.

Where are you originally from?

I was born and grew up in Long Xuyen, the capital city of the An Giang province in Vietnam. An Giang is known as the “Land of the Seven Mountains” because of the sudden appearance of the 7 mountains in the middle of the flat Mekong Delta area. It is also famous for growing and exporting the 2nd-most rice out of any province in the country.

What is your educational background?

I received my Bachelor of Science in nutritional science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and then earned my Master of Science in epidemiology and biostatistics from Northwestern University.

Please tell us about your professional background.

I went to Northwestern University for graduate school right after receiving my Bachelor degree in 2014. In summer of 2015, I graduated from my Master program and started working as an associate research analyst for the NMEDW in November 2015. I have been with NMEDW since then and now am a research analyst.

Why do you enjoy working at Northwestern?

Northwestern has always had, and will always have a very special place in my heart. The University has given me tremendous opportunities to work with some of the most brilliant clinicians and researchers on exciting projects with great impact for the medical and public health community. Additionally, I have been very blessed to be surrounded by incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, and kind coworkers who have helped shape me from a novice — fresh out of college — to become the confident analyst I am today.

How do you help scientists or research students at the medical school?

I am a part of the EDW research team and I work directly with scientists, clinicians and medical students on their clinical research grants and studies. The scientist, researchers and students come to the NMEDW for various reasons; from assessing feasibility, to extracting data, building reports and analyzing or visualizing data for their studies.

For scientists who are still in the planning phase of their studies, I help determine which data is available or can be retrieved from the electronic medical records, so scientists can adjust their questions and hypotheses appropriately. For investigators who already have research protocols approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), I write SQL queries to extract the data for them, discuss the format of the data that is best suited for their research hypothesizes, build dashboards to visualize the data and participate in analysis and manuscript drafting in preparation for publication.

What is your favorite part of the job?

My most favorite part of my job is that it always puts me in a problem solving mode. With the continuously evolving of medical data and studies, there are always new challenges and questions arising and that excites me every day going to work. Additionally, my job gives me the opportunity to walk the fine line between the technical and clinical world.

In order to write SQL queries to extract medical data, I am required to understand coding, databases, and electronic medical records. In order to help researchers with their clinical studies, I need understand study designs and characters of medical data as well as different analysis methods. Seeing studies I contributed to publish in prestigious journals that contribute to the medical community is a rewarding feeling.

Finally, the ability to continuously learn new skills and knowledge from my colleagues, which greatly benefits my career development, makes every working day enjoyable and exciting.

What exciting projects are you working on?

2020 was such an unprecedented year and my most exciting projects focused on COVID-19. Recently, I have been involved with the ongoing NM Healthcare Worker SARS-Cov-2 Serology Study, which examines the linkage between serologic status, SAS-CoV-2 exposure and COVID outcomes among Northwestern Medicine employees.

Last June, I co-authored “Prevalence and Characterization of Asthma in Patients with COVID-19”, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study found the use of inhaled corticosteroid was not associated with increased rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Besides studies related to COVID-19, I am also involving in various studies using Patients Reported Outcomes to assess the quality of their cancer or surgery care.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Before the pandemic, I like to go to fitness dancing classes, explore different rooftop restaurants and enjoy concerts at Millennium Park. During the summer, you can find me out and about; biking, exploring hidden charming streets or along the Lakefront Trail. During the winter months, I love curling up, reading books from my Kindle while enjoying a cup of hot tea.