TRANSFORM HF is committed to training the next generation of heart failure digital health leaders. As part of this commitment, our Trainee Awards support master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral students who are researching new technology or models of care to address inequities in heart failure care​.

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Trainee Awards! Learn about the heart failure trainees and their projects below.


Development of SafeSleep, a smart, accessible, and convenient textile-based technology for remote monitoring of sleep apnea and heart failure at home

Supervisors: Drs. Azadeh Yadollahi and Daniel Franklin

TRANSFORM HF 2022 Heart Failure Trainees Award Recipient Ahmed Elwali

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop during sleep. The disorder affects 10% of adults, leading to reduced blood oxygen and a quadrupled risk of heart failure. When untreated, sleep apnea may double heart failure mortality rates.

Ahmed’s project responds to the need for further monitoring of sleep apnea in those living with heart failure. He aims to develop and validate a smart textile, SafeSleep, to diagnose sleep apnea, investigate its interrelationship with heart failure, and continuously monitor heart performance for long-term, at-home use. SafeSleep will integrate sensors into clothing to monitor various biometrics and body movements during both sleep and wakefulness. Ahmed and his supervisors will conduct a user experience study to identify metrics for measurement and inform the design of a suitable T-shirt.

By creating an accessible and scalable technology to simultaneously diagnose sleep apnea and monitor heart failure, Ahmed hopes to minimize hospitalizations, enable the delivery of preventative therapies, and allow people living with heart failure to effectively self-manage at home.

Ahmed Elwali is a postdoctoral fellow at KITE Research Institute, University Health Network. He has received a PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Manitoba, a BSc degree in Electrical Communication and Electronics from Ain Shams University, and a certificate in Higher Education Teaching from the University of Manitoba. Ahmed has been selected as the Most Promising Bioscience Student of the Year 2021 by Bioscience Association Manitoba. He earned the University of Manitoba Emerging Leader Award, and more than $240,000 in grants (e.g., MITACS).

Ahmed has expertise in several engineering and medical topics, such as signal processing, machine learning, smart wearable devices and textile, sleep apnea, and heart failure.


Deep learning framework for cardiopulmonary fitness prediction in heart failure patients using Apple Watch biometric data

Supervisors: Drs. Chris McIntosh and Yas Moayedi

Remote monitoring can help clinicians better understand heart failure patients’ health conditions outside of the hospital. However, it is rarely implemented in clinics due to the lack of accessibility of devices and patient discomfort with the devices. William’s research will focus on understanding how novel technologies like the Apple Watch can be used to provide more available, easy-to-use monitoring of cardiac fitness.

Past research in wearable devices has suggested that daily step count derived from wearable devices is a more objective metric of heart failure status than the NYHA classes. The immense amount of biometric data from the Apple Watch may provide even more accurate metrics for determining the cardiac fitness of heart failure patients than previous results. William’s research will utilize deep learning models to create meaningful understandings from this data. This includes predicting cardiorespiratory fitness in heart failure patients.

Through integrating novel technologies and machine learning, William’s project aims to revolutionize remote monitoring of heart failure.

TRANSFORM HF 2022 Heart Failure Trainees Award Recipient William Gao

William is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Medical Biophysics under Dr. Chris McIntosh. He aims to apply machine learning to provide interpretability and clinical utility to wearable data. William is interested in bringing machine learning innovation into clinical practice in heart failure. Previously, he completed his MSc at the University of Toronto, where he conducted bioinformatics research in smoking cessation. Outside of the lab, William is a devoted foodie, loves to cook, and enjoys trying new restaurants.


Equitable wearable opto-electronics to monitor heart failure

Supervisors: Drs. Daniel Franklin and Heather Ross

TRANSFORM HF 2022 Heart Failure Trainees Award Recipient Megh Rathod

Light-based technology provides an exciting tool for non-invasive monitoring, with applications for heart failure diagnostics and monitoring. Unfortunately, existing technology fails to account for variations in skin melanin levels, resulting in inaccurate readings and inequities in care. Megh’s project aims to develop a non-invasive way to precisely measure cardiovascular metrics – regardless of skin colour.

By leveraging the rapid advancements in embedded electronics, Megh aims to develop a wearable device that utilizes multiwavelength spectroscopy to account for melanin when obtaining measurements. Megh and his supervisors will validate their devices across skin tones and illness levels by partnering with patients and clinicians.

The ultimate goal of Megh’s research is to advance the development of equity-focused medical devices for diverse populations in Canada, and beyond.

Megh Rathod is a graduate trainee in Biomedical Engineering (Clinical Engineering stream) at the University of Toronto. He graduated from McMaster University in the Honours Integrated Science program with a focus in Biology and an Interdisciplinary Minor in Community Engagement.  Megh’s fascination with leveraging physical and chemical interactions to gain new insights into physiology is complemented by his passion for creative solutions to advance medicine and quality of care. Outside of the lab, Megh can likely be found eating or exploring.

TRANSFORM HF will be checking in on our heart failure trainees throughout their projects. Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Twitter!