Boston innovators Andrea Ippolito and Gajen Sunthara have been selected as Round 3 Presidential Innovation Fellows. Gajen has been chosen to work on the MyData Initiative at the Department of Health and Human Services. Andrea, currently a PhD student in the Engineering Systems Division at MIT, will be working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. We were excited to see Boston represented so heavily in the line-up of fellows, so we asked Andrea and Gajen a few questions about what they’re most looking forward to and what ideas they hope to implement.
Tell us about what you were up to before you started this fellowship. How did you get here?
Andrea Ippolito: Check out my Q&A on MedTech Boston for the whole story – but I’m a PhD student at MIT, the co-founder of Smart Scheduling, an Innovation Specialist at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital Innovation Hub, and the co-leader of MIT’s Hacking Medicine. I’ve been in Boston for a while – before MIT, I worked as a Research Scientist within the Corporate Technology Development group at Boston Scientific.
Gajen Sunthara: I previously served as a Principal Software Architect at the Innovation Acceleration Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and I also volunteered as a Mentor for both InciteHealth at the Center for Primary Care at Harvard Medical School, as well as for Hacking Pediatrics in collaboration with MIT H@cking Medicine (so I’ve worked with Andrea before!). I’ve been in Boston for a while, too: I got a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Wentworth Institute of Technology and a Master’s in Information Technology from Harvard University. My innovation background includes my masters thesis, which focused on using Google Glass to develop a novel application called “GlassSurgeon,” enhancing a surgeon’s workflow and improving patient safety by leveraging natural language processing and hands-free features that access real-time clinical information systems.
What are you most excited about when it comes to taking part in this impressive program?
AI: The Presidential Innovation Fellowship program is a wonderful opportunity to reimagine new ways of approaching complex, system-level challenges facing our country through the stage of the federal government. In particular, I am thrilled to be working with the Veteran’s Administration to help serve our nation’s Veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.
GS: I’m looking forward to working in collaboration with private and public sectors to improve innovation culture in the government.
Any big plans or ideas that you hope to implement?
AI: As a member of the team at the VA Center for Innovation, I am excited to work on the design, planning, and initial execution for a VA Innovator’s Network intended to resolve the challenges restricting in-depth collaboration across the Department.
GS: I’ll be working on Blue Button initiatives to give patients and fellow citizens seamless and secure access to their own health data and liberate the data held by Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems to improve patient empowerment.
What can you tell us about this fellowship that we might not already know?
AI: The energy of the Presidential Innovation Fellows class is electric and inspiring. Maybe you already know that, but it’s exciting to see innovators from across the country partner with agencies in the federal government to develop more innovative, 21st century ways to approach challenges impacting the way we serve Americans. It is an incredible honor to be serving our citizens. In particular, it has been a true privilege meeting Veterans across the country and learning how they have served their country, alongside hearing about their experiences with the VA.
GS: Agreed – I feel so honored to serve our country!
Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.
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