Mohsen Sadatsafavi

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Respiratory Research

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

Clinical Prediciton Modeling
Decision Analytic Modeling
Epidemiological methods


Master's students
Doctoral students
Any time / year round

My lab (Respiratory Evaluation Sciences Program - is looking for a brilliant graduate student (MSc or PhD) for exciting projects in predictive analytics and decision modeling.

The project is part of the $2M The Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded IMPACT study ( involves creating sophisticated risk prediction models for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (to predict disease outcomes), implementing these models into electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, and evaluating their impact on patient care and outcomes. This is an analytically demanding project that requires innovations on risk prediction using EHR data, dynamic updating of risk prediction models, and novel methods for quantifying uncertainty in predictions and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of risk and treatment effect prediction.

The candidate is expected to contribute to the methodological aspects of predictive analytics (risk prediction modeling, treatment benefit modeling, value of information analysis). The candidate will have multiple opportunities for interacting with several other trainees, post-doctoral fellows, research staff, and faculty members. The RESP lab is embedded within Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, one of the largest health outcomes groups in Vancouver.

The candidate will require quantitative background (preferably a degree in statistics, mathematics, or a similar field) and a lot of motivation for pursuing a successful career as a scientist.  

Interested candidate please contact Mohsen Sadatsafavi (


Our lab looks for students / PDFs who are well versed in quantitative methods who are interested in applying their knowledge and skills to health research. Our graduate students and PDFs have come from such disciplines as Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, and Health Economics. We also welcome students with background in medical / health research field if they are willing to learn (quantitative) epidemiology.

Our visition is to mentor graduate studiets and PDFs for a career as an indepenent investigator in Academia. Our graduate students have been very suucessful in securing Faculty positions in reputable schools across the globe.


I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.



These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Thank you so much, Mohsen Sadatsafavi, for your supervision and dedication in the last years!

Nelson Gorrin (2019)


Mohsen is a fantastic supervisor. He pushes you to succeed and is supportive at those inevitable times when you don't. He has been instrumental in my development as a scientist and has created a wonderful lab environment for developing as a person. I truly have #GreatSupervisor!

Kate Johnson (2019)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Evaluating strategies for the early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2020)

Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a highly prevalent disease that often goes undiagnosed. Reducing the burden of undiagnosed COPD requires well designed early detection programs that have been formally evaluated. Objectives: The objective of this thesis was to determine whether there are subgroups of COPD patients in which case detection, followed by evidence-based disease management, would be cost-effective compared with the status quo (no case detection). To answer this question, I 1) identified factors that distinguish patients with undiagnosed from those with diagnosed COPD, 2) assessed heterogeneity in the presence of respiratory symptoms, 3) analysed healthcare encounters prior to COPD diagnosis to identify opportunities for case detection, and 4) evaluated the cost-effectiveness of early detection strategies. Methods: I performed a systematic review to generate pooled odds ratios for factors associated with a COPD diagnosis. I used data from a population-based Canadian study to assess heterogeneity between individuals in the occurrence of respiratory symptoms. I characterised healthcare encounters before COPD diagnosis using health administrative data from British Columbia. I combined evidence from Objectives 1-3 in a whole disease model of COPD to assess the cost-effectiveness of case detection strategies implemented during routine primary care visits.Results: Patients with diagnosed COPD were less likely to have mild disease (OR 0.30, 95%CI 0.24–0.37) and more likely to report respiratory symptoms (OR 11.45 95%CI 7.20–18.21) than patients with undiagnosed COPD. However, individual-specific probabilities for the occurrence of symptoms indicated substantial heterogeneity between patients. COPD patients frequently visited primary care physicians before diagnosis (mean 10.29, IQR 4–13 visits/year). In the two years prior to diagnosis, 72.1% of COPD patients had a respiratory-related primary care visit that did not result in a diagnosis. In the preferred case detection strategy, all patients ≥40 years received a screening questionnaire during their routine visits to a primary care physician. This strategy had an Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratio of $18,791/QALY compared to no case detection.Conclusions: Patients with undiagnosed COPD have identifiable characteristics, they frequently encounter the healthcare system, and strategies for improving their early detection are cost-effective when combined with guideline-recommended treatment.

View record

Longitudinal Studies of Disease Progression, Health Care Costs and Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients with Asthma (2016)

This thesis examines the burden of asthma and its determinants though a series of longitudinal observational studies. Objectives: 1) To quantify the natural history of severe asthma and the impact of early risk factors; 2) To examine the influence of socioeconomic status (SES) on excess direct medical costs of moderate-to-severe asthma and guideline-based asthma care; 3) To estimate excess costs of asthma and the economic implications of comorbidities; 4) To assess the joint influences of asthma control and comorbidity on health-related quality of life. Methods: For the first three objectives, administrative health data (for the period of 1997-2013) were obtained from British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Health, and for the last objective data were obtained from the Economic Burden of Asthma (EBA) study in BC. Various models for longitudinal data were applied for each objective. Findings: 1) Most patients (83%) with incident severe asthma transitioned to milder states after 10 years. Low SES and comorbidity at disease onset led to worse long-term prognosis. 2) Across both individual- and neighborhood-levels, there was evidence that low-SES asthma patients and/or their care providers did not follow guideline-based asthma care and subsequently incurred substantially greater excess costs of asthma. 3) Excess costs in patients with asthma were $1187/year (95%CI $1130─$1243) overall, with comorbidity-attributable costs five times higher than asthma-attributable costs, all of which greatly increased with age. 4) Changes in asthma control had a greater effect on disease-specific (AQ5D) than generic (EQ5D) utilities, whereas changes in comorbidity burden had a larger impact on EQ5D than AQ5D utilities. Conclusions: With several novel methodology techniques, this thesis provided evidence for the first-time on the long-term trajectory and burden of asthma. Projection of cost and effectiveness of decisions and policies in asthma care requires a robust understanding of the natural history of asthma, effect of risk factors on this trajectory, and estimates of costs and health-related quality of life associated with asthma. This thesis provides new evidence on all such parameters. These findings have direct relevance to estimating cost-effectiveness of health technologies in asthma and can result in more informed decision-making in health policy and clinical practice.

View record

Mathematical decision-analytic modelling to evaluate economic and health challenges in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2016)

Background: Reducing the burden associated with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requires addressing challenging care gaps. Mathematical decision-analytic models are among the best tools to address such challenges. Objectives: My overall aim in this thesis was to identify cost-effective treatments in asthma, and to quantify the value of personalizing treatments in COPD. These goals led to four specific objectives: 1) To inform the economic and health impact of improving adherence to the standard controller medications in asthma; 2) To assess the cost-effectiveness step-up treatment options for severe asthma patients; 3) To build a framework for individualized prediction of lung function in COPD; and 4) To quantify the value of personalizing COPD treatments. Methods: Cohort-based models were used to quantify the benefit of improving adherence to controller medications and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of treatments for severe asthma. Mixed-effects regression with external validation was undertaken to project lung function decline up to 11 years for COPD. Microsimulation was used to fully incorporate disease heterogeneity to evaluate the return on investment from individualizing treatments in COPD. All modeling studies were based on careful evidence synthesis and original data analyses whenever required. Results: Improving adherence to controller medications in asthma results in a gain of 0.13 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) at the incremental cost of $3,187 per patient over 10 years. Even with full adherence, 23% of patients would remain uncontrolled. For this group, the addition of bronchial thermoplasty was associated with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $78,700/QALY. Clinical variables explain 88% of variability in lung function decline. The efforts towards individualizing treatments based on patients’ clinical traits would be associated with an additional $1,265 net benefit per person. Conclusion: The analyses in this thesis demonstrate the value of mathematical simulation models in evaluating the outcomes of policies and scenarios. It is unlikely that any empirical research per se would be able to provide the insight generated in this thesis regarding the identified care gaps. Mathematical models can not only be used to evaluate the outcomes associated with specific interventions, but also to objectively document the return on investment in personalized medicine.

View record

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Generalizability of risk stratification algorithms for acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2023)

Background: Contemporary management guidelines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) rely on exacerbation history to risk-stratify patients and guide therapy for the prevention of future exacerbations. However, exacerbation history alone may not reliably predict future exacerbations due to random variability in frequency. To address this problem, multivariable prediction models have been developed to improve predictive accuracy. Objective: The objective of this thesis was to assess the generalizability of COPD exacerbation risk stratification algorithms and assess whether the inclusion of race improves the performance of such algorithms. Methods: I evaluated three algorithms: the Acute COPD Exacerbation Prediction Tool (ACCEPT), a prediction model by Bertens et al., and exacerbation history alone, using data from three COPD clinical trials representing different levels of exacerbation risk. I examined discrimination, calibration, and clinical utility as measures for model performance. I then recalibrated the models using the setting-specific exacerbation risk for comparison. I explored race as a variable that could convey information on background risk and assessed whether adjusting for race with a random-effects approach could improve model performance. Results: Both prediction models had better discrimination compared to exacerbation history alone with Δ area under the curves (AUCs) ranging from 0.05 to 0.10 (P-values 0.17. There were also no notable improvements to calibration, clinical utility, or goodness-of-fit (P-value 0.15) after race-adjustment. Conclusions: Risk stratification algorithms for COPD exacerbations are not universally applicable across all settings. However, the flexibility of clinical prediction models allows them to be updated to accommodate setting differences.

View record

A benefit-harm and cost-effectiveness analysis of azithromycin for the prevention of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2022)

Low-dose oral azithromycin therapy is recommended as a preventive treatment for acute exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, its role in the treatment of COPD remains controversial owing to its side effects. I determined the overall benefit- harm balance as well as the cost-effectiveness of using long-term azithromycin as an add-on to maximal inhaled therapy in the management of patients with COPD, compared with maximal inhaled therapy alone.To evaluate the benefit-harm of azithromycin, I created a probabilistic Markov model of COPD to simulate the course of COPD over 20 years. For assessing the cost-effectiveness, I extended a previously validated health economics model of COPD for Canada to include azithromycin-related outcomes. In both studies, the benefit of azithromycin was modelled as a reduction in exacerbation rates. Adverse events, including cardiovascular events, hearing loss, gastrointestinal symptoms, and antimicrobial resistance (leading to a gradual decline in the effectiveness of azithromycin), were considered. All outcomes were assigned a health-related utility weight to estimate the overall net change in the quality-adjusted life years (QALY) associated with the use of azithromycin. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was defined as the incremental costs (in 2020 Canadian dollars) per QALY gained, and per exacerbation avoided, with costs and health outcomes discounted at 1.5% per year. All outcomes were calculated among subgroups with different exacerbation histories.In the first study, among patients with a positive exacerbation history, azithromycin resulted in a net QALY gain of 17.9 per 100 patients (99.8% probability of positive expected QALY gain) over 20 years. The net benefit increased to 21.8 QALYs per 100 patients (99.9% probability of positive expected QALY gain) among the ‘frequent exacerbators’. In the second study, the ICER was $16,850 per QALY gained for treatment with azithromycin among patients with a positive exacerbation history. The ICER decreased to $8,544 per person over 20 years among the ‘frequent exacerbator’ subgroup. Azithromycin had an ICER greater than $100,000 per QALY gained among those without any moderate/severe exacerbations in the previous year. Findings were robust against a series of sensitivity, scenario, and threshold analyses.

View record

Utilization and safety studies of inhaled pharmacotherapies in COPD (2021)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common chronic disease of the airways responsible for significant burden to the patient and health-care systems. Pharmacotherapy is a cornerstone of COPD management. We aimed at evaluating population-level trends of filled inhaled prescriptions over the time course of COPD and their agreement with guidelines. Further, inhaled medications have potential side effects that are not sufficiently investigated. We aimed to examine the association between use of long-acting or short-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA and SAMA) and the risk of acute angle-closure glaucoma (AACG) in COPD. We used administrative health databases in British Columbia, Canada to create a cohort of COPD patients. We quantified inhaled medication prescriptions within each year of follow-up, and documented their trends over the time course of COPD. Using generalized linear models, we investigated the association between the frequent exacerbator status and filling a prescription after a physician visit. To assess AACG risk, a case-control study was nested within this cohort. All cases of AACG followed by laser iridotomy were obtained and matched to controls by age, sex, and calendar time. The exposure to LAMA/SAMA was categorized into three levels: current use (≥ 1 prescription of LAMA or SAMA during the last 30 days), new use (initiated medication in the last 30 days), and past use (≥ 1 prescription in 6 months to 30 days before AACG). Conditional logistic regression models were used to estimate the rate ratio (RR) of AACG controlling for confounders.The most common medication class in COPD incident cohort during the first year of diagnosis was inhaled corticosteroids (ICS, used by 49.9%). We documented low utilization of monotherapies (specifically LAMA) and high utilization of combination therapies (particularly containing ICS). Moreover, specialists were less likely to consider exacerbation history in the choice of therapies compared with general practitioners. In the safety study, 92 cases were matched to 460 controls. We demonstrated that the use of inhaled muscarinic antagonists in a COPD population, regardless of dose and timing, does not appear to affect the risk of AACG (adjusted RR:1.14, 95%CI [0.64 to 2.01], p=0.65). Results remained consistent in sensitivity analyses.

View record

News Releases

This list shows a selection of news releases by UBC Media Relations over the last 5 years.



If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Planning to do a research degree? Use our expert search to find a potential supervisor!