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Juslio Villafan


Data isn’t just data. Julio Villafañe knows that well: as a senior data consultant with CVS Health, he studies medical treatments, patient outcomes and trends in health care with the goal of reducing costs and improving patients’ health. He is keenly aware that all the data he works with comes from people’s real lives, and that data scientists have an ethical responsibility to make sure no community or demographic is marginalized. That sense of ethics drew him to a Jesuit Catholic education and Regis University.

Julio Villafan

The Intersection of Data and Ethics

"I’m friends with a couple of other people who did data science post-grad degrees elsewhere and it sounds like those programs were laser-focused on technical skills, just learning and implementing statistical models. I knew that wasn’t enough for me. What drew me to Regis was that it was the only program that even had a course in the ethics of data science, and it was a required class! There’s an ethical approach to things as well, outside of just knowing two plus two equals four."

Ethics for the Real World

"Studying data science at Regis, with that Jesuit Catholic ethical foundation, was eye-opening. There’s been, unfortunately, a litany of examples in the past decade-plus of data science applications gone wrong, where the sample size isn’t indicative of the entire population. The end result is just hyper-marginalizing certain demographics or communities. I don’t want to continue that collective mistake, especially working in health care."

Julio Villafan

Learning to Make a Difference

"I needed a graduate program paid for by my employer, and that means I’m committed to being in the health care field for five years, so I’m very conscious of the difference I can make in this space. Right now, my work is focused on tracking therapies CVS is shipping throughout the country that help patients get out of hospital beds and finish their treatment at home. It reduces health care costs, and it improves patient outcomes on a macro level because they’re able to finish their therapy regimen in the comfort of their home versus a hospital setting."

How Data Science Can Improve Lives

"I’m helping CVS make an impact by helping people be healthier. In 2019, for instance, 5% of insured people made up half the total health care spend. If we use targeted, data-driven initiatives to help the people in that 5% be just a little healthier, that’s a win-win. We can use machine learning to analyze leading indicators, find out which people are at risk of diabetes or obesity or hypertension or you name it, and help them nip those problems in the bud."

Choosing the Right University

"On the whole, it was that sense of engagement with professors that you’re coming along and learning more than just reading or piecing some code together. There is this macro sense of understanding where this program lies in what you’re ultimately trying to do with your life. It’s like a compass, guiding you forward, instead of just putting your head down and getting your work done. I think what I’ve gained from the last two years, more than anything, is a sense of compassion."

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