Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, has won the 2019 Social Impact Abie Award.
Given by AnitaB.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting, inspiring and guiding women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative, the award recognizes a woman whose work is making a positive impact on women, technology and society, and who has developed technology that caused social change.
The award is part of five given annually by AnitaB.org in the categories of Technical Leadership, Social Impact, Educational Innovation, Emerging Technologist and Student of Vision… Continue reading.
In the corner of a lab packed with computers and equipment, doctoral student Christopher Lam stands at a workstation decorated with photos of his dog wearing a Duke head scarf or safety goggles. He gestures toward a colposcope — a stereo microscope almost as tall as he is — that uses reflected light to screen for cervical cancer. “Imagine being a health worker in a setting like Haiti, and you have to carry something like this on the back of a motorcycle,” he says.
Lam and others in the Tissue Optical Spectroscopy (TOpS) Lab are working on an entrepreneurial alternative to the giant device, one they hope will help improve women’s health across the developing world. They have been developing a vastly smaller colposcope, one shaped like a tampon that can connect wirelessly to a tablet or smartphone. Inspired by a spy pen, the device would enable women to take pictures of their own cervix and send them to their physicians, eliminating the need for a physical exam at a potentially distant clinic.
Nimmi Ramanjuam is training students to move nimbly between the lab and the marketplace. “We’re all entrepreneurs, but what takes us to the next level is seeing the need for change — and acting on it.”
A hand-held colposcope is just one of several technologies coming out of the lab team led by Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering. An entrepreneur, teacher and mentor, Ramanujam is pursuing new cancer-screening technologies and other innovations while training students how to move nimbly between the lab and the marketplace to serve women in some of the world’s poorest communities.
Around the world, nearly 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth—and even more from breast and cervical cancer. Duke’s expertise in biomedical engineering and global health are merging to address these issues and improve the lives of women by accelerating research in areas of women’s health, while increasing the number of women and minorities who pursue training and degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Global Women’s Health Technologies Center reflects a partnership between the Pratt School of Engineering and the Duke Global Health Institute and is led by Nimmi Ramanujam, professor of biomedical engineering and global health.
The center’s mission is to increase research, training and education in women’s diseases, with a focus on breast cancer, cervical cancer, and maternal-fetal health; and to increase retention of women and underrepresented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational disciplines locally and globally.
Nirmala Ramanujam, a professor of biomedical engineering in the Pratt School of Engineering, has been promoted to fellow of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. She is being recognized for her outstanding contributions to biophotonics technologies applied to breast cancer detection and imaging and her service to SPIE.