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Healthcare Analytics laboratory at utsa

Bringing right care to
the right population AT
the right time


In the HEAL LAB, we focus on designing, building, and implementing innovative data-driven systems engineering solutions to improve community health.

Analytics, Monitor, Graph, Statistics, Report Icon
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Population health computational modeling

Tailored policy design and analysis for social, economic and population health outcomes in diverse communities using computational modeling.

Health care data analytics

Applying data analysis techniques to detect behavioral trends using electronic health records.

Health care disparity assessment

Analytical approaches are used to identify and characterize the root causes of health disparities, with a focus on social determinants of health.


Enhancing Equity in Opioid Medication Treatment with Responsive Machine Learning

Role: Co-PI

Period: 10/2023 - 10/2025

Opioid Pills. Opioid Epidemic and Drug Abuse Concept. Different

This project utilizes causal machine learning to address health disparities in MOUD treatment. It aims to identify subgroups with varying treatment effects and develop personalized buprenorphine treatment adherence prediction models. The outcome is expected to be a framework for improving treatment adherence and mitigating health disparities in MOUD.



  • Dr. Yanmin Gong, Associate professor and Microsoft President’s Endowed Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Computer ​Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Dr. Yuanxiong Guo, Associate professor in the Department of Information Systems and Cyber Security, Department of Electrical and ​Computer Engineering, and School of Data Science at The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Dr. Cici X.C. Bauer Associate Professor James W. Rockwell Professorship in Public Health (Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology) ​Department of Biostatistics and Data Science Director, Center for Spatial-temporal Modeling for Applications in Population Sciences ​(CSMAPS) University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health
  • Dr. Carolina Vivas-Valencia, Assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at the University of ​Texas at San Antonio

Using Machine Learning and Data Analytics Frameworks to ​Estimate Medication Use for Managing Challenging Behavior ​in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Texas

Role: PI

Period: 10/2024 - 09/2026

The head is painted with colored crayons. Neurodivergent concept.

This study aims to investigate the utilization and effectiveness of ad-hoc ​pharmacological interventions for managing challenging behavior in Texas. ​Leveraging longitudinal prescription data, we will analyze patterns of medication ​usage, particularly focusing on three categories: agitation and self-injurious behavior ​mitigation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like symptoms ​management, and mood and anxiety disorder treatment



  • Dr. Leslie Neely, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Dr. Carolina Vivas-Valencia, Assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at the University of ​Texas at San Antonio
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Meet the team

Principal investigator

Assistant Professor

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard University

Ph.D. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University

B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, Universidad CES & Universidad EIA, Medellin, Colombia

Dr. Carolina Vivas-Valencia established the HEAL Lab in January 2023 at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She is leading a multidisciplinary team with a focus on advancing precision population medicine for behavioral health through data analytics.

Dr. Vivas-Valencia is interested in conducting health informatics research to advance the treatment of autism and opioid use disorder. She is also leveraging real-world healthcare data to better understand the impact on health outcomes among pregnant and postpartum populations. Dr. Vivas-Valencia is passionate about making healthcare more accessible, inclusive science, and working with the community to address community-based health problems.

Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

Hometown: Popayán, Colombia

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Graduate students

Paula A. Jaimes Buitron

Paula Jaimes is currently pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at UTSA and UT Health San Antonio. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Universidad Autónoma de Manizales in Colombia. Prior to joining the HEAL Lab, she worked as a research assistant at the Centro de Bioinformática y Biología Computacional de Colombia – BIOS. Paula's research interests focus on prescription patterns for autism and geospatial analysis of opioid use.

Pronouns: She/Her

Hometown: La Plata (Huila), Colombia

Goals: I want to utilize my abilities and skills to assist vulnerable communities through research and by practicing kindness.

Hobbies: Read, travel, experience new things, cook, play video games, and spend time with loved ones


Trilochan (SAI) Tadi

Sai is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at San ​Antonio and UT Health San Antonio joint graduate program. He completed his B.S. in ​Biomedical Engineering at UTSA in Spring 2024. Before joining the HEAl Lab, Sai served as an ​undergraduate research assistant at the ReMeDi Lab under Dr. Teja Guda at UTSA. ​Additionally, he served as the president of the Klesse Student Advisory Council and was a ​member/mentor in the UTSA Biomedical Engineering Society.

Pronouns: He/Him

Hometown: Rajahmundry,India

Goals: I want utilize my knowledge, skills and abilities gained in my academic journey to ​create a equitable and fair health care system.

Hobbies: Traveling, soccer, and writing fictional sci-fi books.


undergraduate students

Belem Suarez

Belem is currently enrolled in the Bachelor's program in Biomedical Engineering at UTSA. ​Apart from her academic pursuits, she has a keen interest in traveling, learning new ​languages, training, art, and reading novels. She also devotes her time to volunteer work at ​the Corazon Clinic, where she assists uninsured and homeless individuals in getting medical ​attention. Additionally, she is an active member of Engineers Without Borders, where she ​contributes to community-driven development projects in South America.

Pronouns: She/her

Hometown: San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Expected graduation year: 2025

Project: Conducting health informatics research to understand the impact of policies on ​pregnant women in Texas


Crystal Holland

Crystal is a student in the bachelor's program in mechanical engineering at UTSA. She ​currently serves as the Treasurer for the Society of Women Engineers, where she combines ​her academic pursuits with leadership in promoting women in STEM fields. Crystal is also ​deeply committed to her personal journey of long-term recovery from drugs and alcohol, ​marking August 4, 2020, as her sobriety birthdate. She actively contributes to UTSA's ​Roadrunner Recovery program as a work-study student, embodying her dedication to ​fostering a supportive collegiate environment. Crystal aspires to merge her engineering skills ​with her passion for community support, aiming to make a lasting impact in both fields.

Pronouns: She/her

Hometown: Houston, TX

Hobbies: Dancing, exercising, learning new skills, and hanging out with her 11-year-old son


Alumni – Previous Members

Isabel Castrillon Acosta - Universidad CES (Medellin, Colombia), Spring 2024

Vaibhavi Sunkara - University of Texas at San Antonio, 2023-2024

Avery Scurlock - University of Texas at San Antonio, Fall 2023

Dog-toral Trainees

Lola Carantanta

Millie Milonga

LolaCarantanta & MillieMilonga are co-advised by Prof. David Restrepo ( LolaCarantanta & MillieMilonga share a keen interest in treats and peanut butter and enjoy getting pets and going for early morning walks. Occasionally, they join Zoom meetings and are great companions during grant writing sessions.

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  • Vivas-Valencia, Carolina, et al. "Factors Associated With Abrupt Discontinuation of Long-Term High-Dose Opioid Treatment." JAMA Network Open 6.11 (2023): e2341416-e2341416.

  • Vivas-Valencia, Carolina, et al. "Assessing the Impact of Indiana Public Law 194 on Curbing the Concurrent Opioid Prescribing for Indiana Medicaid Enrollees." Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 17 (2023): 11782218231168722.

  • Vivas-Valencia, C., Kong., Adams, N., Griffin, P. (2023) Opioid-Related Treatment Disparities Among Medicaid Enrollees in Indiana. Health Equity, 7.1

  • Vivas-Valencia, C., Zhou, Y., Sai, A., Imperiale, T. F., & Kong, N. (2022). A two-phase approach to re-calibrating expensive computer simulation for sex-specific colorectal neoplasia development modeling. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 22(1), 244.

  • Lou, Zhouyang, et al. "Examining how physician factors influence patient satisfaction during clinical consultations about cancer prognosis and pain." PEC Innovation 1 (2022): 100017.

  • Vivas-Valencia, C., Kong, N., & Griffin, P. (2021, May). Quantifying Disparities in Opioid Treatment Among Medicaid Enrollees. In 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making. SMDM.

  • Vivas-Valencia, C., Kong, N., Kim, E., Purzer, S., & Payne, L. (2020, June). An assessment instrument for user-centered innovation potential among biomedical engineers. In 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Montréal, Quebec.

  • Best Paper of the Design in Engineering Education Division
    • Kim, E., Purzer, S., Vivas-Valencia, C., Payne, L., & Kong, N. (2020, June). Problem reframing and empathy manifestation in the innovation process. In 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

  • Kong, N., Purzer, S., Payne, L., Kim, E., & Vivas-Valencia, C. (2020, June). Research Initiation: Enhancing the Learning Outcomes of Empathic Innovation in Biomedical Engineering Senior Design Projects. In 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

  • Sai, A., Vivas-Valencia, C., Imperiale, T. F., & Kong, N. (2019). Multiobjective calibration of disease simulation models using Gaussian processes. Medical Decision Making, 39(5), 540-552.

  • Hunter, S. R., Applegate, E. A., Arora, V., Chong, B., Cooper, K., Rincón-Guevara, O., & Vivas-Valencia, C. (2019). An introduction to multiobjective simulation optimization. ACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation (TOMACS), 29(1), 1-36.

  • Lee B. Lusted Finalist
    • Vivas-Valencia, C., Sai, A., Imperiale, T., & Kong, N. (2017, October). An Effective Two-Phase Response Surface Based Disease Model Calibration Procedure with a Case Study on Colorectal Cancer. In 39th Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making. SMDM.

  • Mdluli, T., Sarker, J., Vivas-Valencia, C., Kong, N., & Shields, C. G. (2016). Analyzing Patient–Physician Interaction in Consultation for Shared Decision Making. Healthcare Analytics, 503.

  • Top Ranked Abstract Session
    • Vivas-Valencia, C. V., Kong, N., Klein, R., Tham, W.K., & Imperiale, T., & Kong, N. (2014, October). A Progressive Calibration Procedure for Individualized Colorectal Cancer Screening Study. In 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making. SMDM.

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in the press

December 2023 - UTSA professors work to close opioid treatment gaps with help of $1 million grant. Read the full story here:

November 2023 - Our latest publication on JAMA Open Network was highlighted in "Alcoholism Drug Abuse Weekly." Read the full story here:

August 2023 - Dr. Vivas-Valencia was recently featured in the newsletter "Brain Waves.". Read the full story here:

Lab news

July 2024

*Our team has been awarded the Transdisciplinary Teams Program (T2) seed grant to ​support our research in autism.

April 2024

*Paula got a full scholarship to attend the DAIR3 program at the University of Michigan in ​June. The program is supported by NIH and focuses on ethical data management, AI model ​design, and reproducibility. We are extremely proud of Paula's big accomplishment during ​her first year as a PhD student!

*Congratulations to Brandon, Jack, Luis, Sai and Zack for winning the BMES and Tech ​Symposium with their senior design project which aimed at detecting diabetic retinopathy ​using artificial intelligence. It was an incredible experience to be their mentor and witness all ​the great things they accomplished!

March 2024

*There was great representation and participation from the HEAL Lab at the NSF Spring ​School. The event focused on Neuro-Inspired AI, Federated Learning, and Continual ​Learning for the Edge.

*During the BME research symposium at UTSA, Paula showcased her work from the first ​year at the HEAL Lab. Congratulations to Paula, and we look forward to seeing more from ​her!

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia was invited to participate in the HSRU NSF writing workshop! It was ​wonderful to meet inspiring faculty from Hispanic Serving Institutions.

February 2024 - Thanks to MATRIX AI for sponsoring Dr. Vivas-Valencia's attendance at the ​TAMEST conference in Austin.

January 2024

*We are excited to welcome our first visiting student researcher, Isabel, to the HEAL Lab!

*Vaibhavi and Belem have been awarded the Klesse College Undergraduate Research ​Scholarship for the Spring 2024 term. CONGRATULATIONS!!

November 2023

*New publication on “Factors Associated With Abrupt Discontinuation of Long-Term High-​Dose Opioid Treatment”

*Vaibhavi has been accepted into the Pathways to Education Research Training Program. ​CONGRATULATIONS!!

October 2023

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia has been invited to speak at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix

*Our research on optimal placement of point-of-care devices won the best oral presentation ​award at the Zimbabwe National AIDS Council Research Symposium. Congratulations to the ​amazing team!

September 2023

*First grant for the HEAL Lab!! Our team has received the NIH AIM-AHEAD Award!

*Belem has been awarded the Klesse College Undergraduate Research Scholarship for the ​Fall 2023 term. CONGRATULATIONS!!

August 2023

*As part of the CAREER MODE program, Dr. Vivas-Valencia attended the Mendelian ​Randomization Bootcamp at Columbia University in New York.

*Belem, Vaibhavi, and Avery have joined the HEAL Lab! WELCOME!!

July 2023 - Dr. Vivas-Valencia chaired a session and gave a talk at INFORMS Healthcare in ​Toronto.

June 2023 - Paula joins the HEAL Lab!!! WELCOME

April 2023

*New publication on “Assessing the Impact of Indiana Public Law 194 on Curbing the ​Concurrent Opioid Prescribing for Indiana Medicaid Enrollees”

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia has become a core member of MATRIX AI and a member of the Brain ​Health Consortium at UTSA.

March 2023

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia has been selected for Columbia University's prestigious CAREER MODE ​program.

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia has been invited to present a seminar at STRECH hosted by UTHealth ​San Antonio.

*Dr. Vivas-Valencia has been invited to make a presentation at the RegenMed conference.

February 2023 - New publication on “Opioid-Related Treatment Disparities Among Medicaid ​Enrollees in Indiana”

January 2023 - The HEAL LAB at UTSA opens!!

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Paula’s Birthday

September 2023

INFORMS DEI Committee at Phoenix

October 2023

End of the semester celebration

December 2023

women in BME social lunch

December 2023


February 2024


March 2024


March 2024

BMES Symposium

March 2024


March 2024

Winners of the BMES and Tech symposium

March - April 2024

Senior Design project: detecting diabetic retinopathy using artificial intelligence

end of the semester celebration

June 2024

Cr​ystal’s Birthday

Ju​ly 2024

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Welcome to the HEAL Lab Bookshelf! Our collection features our favorite non-fiction books on healthcare, data analytics, behavioral health, empowerment, and productivity. We draw inspiration from these books to become better, more responsible researchers, leaders, and mentors, and to find tools to help empower others. #HappyReading!!

#Healthcare #disparities #opioidcrisis #infectiousdisease


#timemanagement #grit #habits #mentoring

#women #empowerment #latinas