CEDARS CANCER FOUNDATION

Laurie J. Hendren Opal Scholarship


The goal of the Laurie J. Hendren Opal scholarship is to provide financial support to promising undergraduate students to undertake patient-centered summer research projects with the Opal Health Informatics Group at the Research Institute of the MUHC (RI-MUHC). One or two scholarships are awarded annually.

The application deadline for the 2022 scholarship is Monday, March 21st, 2022.


Please submit your application using this Google form (Google account required).


Prof. Laurie Hendren was a renowned professor of Computer Science at McGill who died from metastatic breast cancer in 2019. As both a breast cancer patient and a computer scientist, Laurie worked tirelessly to improve the Quebec healthcare system by fighting for patients to have full and immediate access to their health data. Through Laurie’s collaboration with Dr. John Kildea (medical physicist) and Dr. Tarek Hijal (radiation oncologist), the Opal patient portal was born. As of February 2022, Opal provides patients with access to some of their health data at the MUHC and it is being continuously developed by the Opal Health Informatics group at the RI-MUHC, that Drs Kildea and Hijal continue to lead.

Each year, the Opal Health Informatics Group will create a list of patient-centered research projects involving the Opal patient portal that undergraduate students can apply to participate in.

In summer 2022, the following four projects are proposed:

2-way messaging Integration of 2-way messaging into Opal.
OncoBuddy Integration of peer-support into Opal.
3D-RT Integration of 3D radiotherapy displays in Opal.
Cancer events Integration into Opal of a calendar of cancer-related public events.

Detailed descriptions of each project are found below. In their statement of interest, candidates should indicate their preferred project and why they believe they are suited to participating in it.

Applications are accepted from strong undergraduate students in any field of study. Students can participate in the design, analysis, programming, project management or any other aspect of the project that fits their experience and interest.

Applications will be judged by a committee of MUHC cancer patients organized by the Cancer Care Mission Patients’ Committee of the MUHC that Laurie was a member of. Members of Laurie’s family and the Opal Health Informatics Group leadership may participate as observers.

Review criteria include:

  • Academic excellence as evidenced by grades and letter of recommendation.
  • Experience or interest in patient-centered care evidenced by CV and statement of interest.

An individual is limited to one Laurie J. Hendren scholarship during their studies.

Please complete your application online using this Google form. Please note that for security reasons a Google account is required.

You will need to provide 4 things:

  1. Completed application form.
  2. Curriculum Vitae – Include information on experience with software design, software development, informatics, clinical research, data analysis, and/or the care of cancer patients (personal experience with cancer or caregiving for a cancer patient is valid).
  3. University transcript showing classes taken and grades – unofficial transcript is acceptable.
  4. A 1/2-page statement of interest explaining your interest in one or more of the listed research projects and how you are suited to participating in the project. Valid experience includes but is not limited to: classes taken, software development experience, data analysis experience, volunteering experience, previous projects you have been involved in, personal experience as a cancer patient or caregiver, general interest in the subject.

All candidates will be notified of the decision by April 1st, 2022.

Projects for 2022


Secure Messaging: Integration of 2-way messaging into Opal

The goal of this project is to provide a mechanism in the Opal patient portal for patients to communicate directly and securely with their doctors/nurses at the MUHC. The solution will need patient-facing and clinician-facing components. It will need to take into account the following:

  1. The user interfaces must be easy and intuitive.
  2. Not all clinicians use Opal.
  3. The messaging system must be secure (e.g. use a technology such as Signal).
  4. The data collected must go into the patient’s medical record.

Possible areas of participation include:

  • Design of the user interfaces.
  • Creation of user-stories to help define the development roadmap based on interviews with patients and clinicians.
  • Development of a prototype system using Signal’s technology.
  • Analysis of the regulatory framework and security and governance requirements.

OncoBuddy: Integration of peer-support into Opal.

The goal of this project is to build an AI-powered matching algorithm into Opal to match cancer patients with each other for the purpose of peer support. The cancer treatment experience is anxiety-provoking and clinicians can only alleviate the anxiety of patients to a certain extent. However, patients can learn a lot from other patients who have already been through the cancer treatment experience as they better understand their needs.

In this project we are working to match patients with each other based on matching criteria that are important to patients. Some work has already been done and the summer project will build on that work.

Possible areas of participation include:

  • Design of the user interfaces.
  • Helping conduct a focus group with patients and analyzing the results obtained.
  • Design and development of an AI-powered matching algorithm.
  • Creation of user-stories to help define the development roadmap based on interviews with the development team, patients and clinicians.

3D-RT: Integration of 3D radiotherapy displays in Opal

The goal of this project is to help radiotherapy patients understand what their radiotherapy experience will look like in order to reduce their anxiety in advance of their first radiotherapy session. By using each patient’s actual radiotherapy treatment plan, 3D visualizations are provided in Opal showing how the radiation beams will enter the patient’s body. A lot of work has already been completed to create a demo. However, a lot more work remains to complete the effort.

Possible areas of participation include:

  • Prepare a protocol for the Research Ethics Board to describe how feedback will be obtained from patients and staff using focus groups.
  • Conduct focus groups with patients and staff to get feedback on the demo.
  • Analyze how data from the Oncology Information System can be automatically transferred to Opal.
  • Creation of user-stories to help define the development roadmap based on interviews with patients and clinicians.

Cancer events: Integration into Opal of a calendar of cancer-related public events

The goal of this project is to provide a user-friendly calendar interface in Opal to allow cancer patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre to see a list of upcoming cancer-related public events in Montreal. This will require two components, one for the patient in the Opal app and one for event organizers to submit their event information for inclusion in the Opal events calendar.

Possible areas of participation include:

  • Design of the patient-facing and organizer-facing user interfaces.
  • Design of the data collection architecture.
  • Information gathering and definition of data types to be included in the events calendar.
  • Creation of user-stories to help define the development roadmap based on interviews with patients and organizers.