Recap of Technology Innovation for Global Health: Battle Scars and Success Stories
By Hamdy Inusah
Last week, for the final installment of our Leaders in Global Health Seminar Series, we spoke with Dr. Soumyadipta Acharya, the Graduate Program Director of the John Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), as he spoke with us about Technological innovations for Global Health.
In this event recap, we want to share with you a few key topics of discussion from our event as well as encourage you to watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel.
Dr. Acharya began his presentation by telling us about the program he runs and the work that they do. The mission of CBID is split into two parts, the first one centering around the education of the next generation of leaders and innovators in healthcare, and the second one concerning the creation and development of healthcare solutions that will make an impact on health worldwide. He also touched on some of the impressive outcomes from the center, including launching 15 startups, filing over 30 utility patents and 40 invention disclosures, and earning over $50M in awards and grants.
He then moved on to talk about the importance of context when dealing with global health issues. He emphasized issues such as resource and infrastructure constraints and limited access and awareness, and used these to point out that focusing on the technology aspect of global health innovation was not enough to solve the problems at hand. He also noted that one should not overlook the brighter spots in this line of work, that the spirit, enthusiasm, and strength of the people you encounter are just as worthy of focus as the constraints and problems in an area.
This was followed up by Acharya talking about some of the goals of the center. At CBID, they aim to focus on aiding low and middle income countries that have high rates of mortality and morbidity with solutions that are evidence-based, high-impact, scalable, cost-effective, and appropriately designed with all parties in mind. These solutions are done with several different perspectives in mind, and the CBID uses a “spiral approach” to develop these designs, in order to make sure that all areas of interest are considered in the development process.
“Be married to the problem you want to solve, not your design.”
To close out his presentation, he gave further insight into the spiral model with several case studies from the center, including the creation of a device that allows community-based anemia screenings to be properly performed in larger numbers around India, the attempt at developing a low-cost band that would allow mothers to screen their infants for the signs of neonatal illness in Uganda, the conception of an efficient cryoablation machine to prevent the development of cervical cancer in women in Asia and Africa, and the evolution of telemedicine consultations through a program called Ayu in several low and middle income countries. He talked about the successes, failures, and lessons learned in these case studies and several aspects of development to take into consideration when aiming to solve problems.
After Dr. Acharya’s presentation, we moved into a live Q&A session, which covered a wide range of interesting topics including making and maintaining global partnerships, and how to approach failure, which is always a part of innovation.