Epidemiology Ph.D. candidate Ruba Sajdeya awarded Madelyn Lockhart Fellowship

Dr. Ruba Sajdeya and Dr. Edith Khan
Dr. Ruba Sajdeya and Dr. Edith Khan, award committee chair

By Jill Pease

Ruba Sajdeya, M.D., an epidemiology doctoral candidate in the clinical and translational science concentration at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, is the recipient of the Madelyn Lockhart Fellowship, presented by UF’s Association for Academic Women.

Sajdeya received a $2,000 award and was recognized at a Women’s History Month Awards Reception held March 20 at the Earl and Christy Powell University House. The fellowship honors a Ph.D. candidate who is both an outstanding researcher and has contributed to creating a more inclusive and diverse community. The fellowship is named for Madelyn Lockhart, Ph.D., who served in several administrative roles at the university, including as dean of the Graduate School and dean of International Studies and Programs.

Sajdeya’s dissertation examines the implications of cannabis use for patients undergoing surgery, focusing on drug interactions between cannabis and anesthetic and pain medications, the effects on postoperative pain, and the risk of perioperative cardiovascular and cerebrovascular adverse events. She uses a transdisciplinary approach that combines expertise in epidemiology, anesthesiology, pharmacology, data science and artificial intelligence with the aim of providing critical real-world evidence to inform policymaking and practice regarding cannabis use around the time of surgery.

group of people posed outdoors
Ruba Sajdeya (front row, fourth from right), pictured with the awards committee and finalists, was recognized at a Women’s History Month Awards Reception held March 20.

“Ruba’s interest in the epidemiology of anesthesia is somewhat unusual, but important given the potential impact her research could have on surgical health outcomes,” said her dissertation committee chair Robert Cook, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of epidemiology and medicine. “Ruba developed a new way of identifying exposure to marijuana prior to surgery from medical records and she is now completing her research looking at the relationship of marijuana use to surgical outcomes. She is an outstanding choice for this award given her combination of scientific expertise and her work in the community. We are all very proud of Ruba!”

The novel natural language processing algorithm Sajdeya and her colleagues developed extracts pre-surgical cannabis use information from electronic health records data. This algorithm enables reproducible and reliable quantitative analysis of cannabis use and its effects before, during and after surgery.

“Despite the limitations of conducting clinical trials involving cannabis, my goal is to support the generation of robust scientific evidence to inform perioperative clinical practices and policies and ensure safe and effective perioperative care for an ever-growing population of patients who use cannabis,” Sajdeya said.