Five minutes with digital health expert, Ali Besiso

10 April 2024
Pioneering healthcare innovation
Ali Besiso (B Hlth Sci '10, M H I '12, MBA '23) is passionate about improving health care through digital innovation. Transitioning from health sciences to leading two successful digital health startups, we caught up with him to learn more about how the digital era is reshaping patient care worldwide.

Ali is a dynamic Health Informatician passionate about driving fundamental changes in healthcare through the development of digital technologies. With a background in health sciences and a master of health informatics and business administration, Ali has leveraged his expertise to co-lead the commercialisation of two successful digital health startups, Innovative Clinical Information Management Systems (iCIMS) and Health Language Analytics (HLA). His leadership has led to the introduction of advanced systems for managing patient information and using computers to understand human language in hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout Australia and the United States.

Ali's innovative work has been recognised with prestigious awards, including the NSW Premier's iAward for Public Sector Innovation for HLA in 2018 and the inaugural Medical Software Industry Association Innovation Award for iCIMS in 2019. He is also an active member of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH), contributing to the advancement of digital health practices in NSW.

What attracted you to the field of health informatics?

I have always had a passion for the health industry since I was a teenager. I almost went down the medical pathway, however during my health sciences studies, I undertook a couple of elective units in the discipline of health informatics, and I never looked back. I instantly fell in love with the field and the mission of combining health, data, and technology to advance the health industry. I believed, or convinced myself, that my personal interests and skillset are better suited to making a more valuable contribution to the health industry as a health informatician than a medical professional.

Where do you see the future of digital health heading, and what emerging technologies or trends do you find most exciting or promising?

Health as an industry will never be obsolete – people will always want health care. Similarly, digital is now the way of the world and it is here to stay for centuries to come. So the future of digital health must be scalable, sustainable, and accessible.

The big promise is that health can be delivered anywhere, any time, unconfined by the traditional brick-and-mortar model of health care delivery. Many will agree that we have already entered that age, but there is still a lot to be done.

The technologies that personally excite me are not necessarily the big revolutionary ones, but more so the ones that can give us easy wins right now to free us up for the bigger changes in the future. Examples include remote monitoring, virtual care, and using the huge amounts of data we currently collect for more real-time decision-making for preventative care rather than curative.

Ali speaking at the MBA Annual Dinner 2024

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your career so far?

That learning never stops. There is always more to learn and a growth mindset is the key to unlocking any future success, no matter how big or small. I foolishly told my family and friends at the completion of my health informatics degree that I would never study again. I am proud to have been wrong on that front.   

Touching on each of your degrees, how did your studies at the University of Sydney prepare you for your career?

Each of the three degrees had a significant and unique impact on my career. The health sciences degree was a discovery pathway to finding my true calling and learning about myself and what career I want for myself. It instantly led me to the Master of Health Informatics which I commenced immediately after completing my bachelor degree.

The health informatics degree is where I found my feet in the professional world. It equipped me with the subject matter knowledge as well as presented me with opportunities to experience research, professional work placements, and real-world problems needing solving. It was through this degree that I found my niche. This culminated in me receiving my first ever full-time job offer in the short window between completing my degree and gaduating. Notably, that offer came through the network I gained access to at the university during my studies.

In terms of career impact, the MBA took me to an entirely new level. I commenced my MBA studies after approximately eight years of professional work experience. I was managing two start-ups at the time and learning on the job through trial and error. The MBA allowed me to make sense of my career to date, contextualise my past and present, and where I want to head in the future. It taught me self-awareness, equipped me with much needed fundamentals in a highly practical, hands-on style, and last but not least, helped me build a personal and professional network that I truly believe I will have for life.   

What advice would you give someone considering a MBA?

Come into it with an open mind, lower your guard, and enjoy the ride. You will learn just as much about yourself as you will about the subject matter, they go hand-in-hand.

One of the big myths of doing an MBA is that it is only relevant to current or aspiring management professionals or c-suite executives. I think this is so far from the truth. Everyone can (or arguably, should) be a leader within their own role and position. It all starts with your own personal leadership and growth.  

Try to learn as much as possible from the diversity of minds, industries, and life experiences you will interact with as much as the carefully crafted content. It is all part of the package!

What is your fondest memory of your time at USYD?

While it is hard to choose a single memory across three degrees, I would have to go back to the day I received my very first letter of offer from the University of Sydney. I still remember that moment vividly as my heart was racing while I opened the letter. Sydney was not only my first choice, it was my only choice as I had no interest in a ‘plan B’. The rest, as they say, is history.

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