Meera Gopalakrishnan: Somewhere over the Atlantic between Boston and Amsterdam

It’s hard to believe that the first quiet moment I’ve had in the past few days is at 35,000 feet. Between preparing for the trip, getting all of the necessary equipment, packing, organizing things at work and home and checking the news for the latest on the Ebola outbreak, it has been a busy week.

Now at 35,000 feet, I finally have a moment to reflect on this trip that I am embarking upon. You see, I am on my way to rural Uganda to meet with one of our partners, Imaging the World. The program focuses on creating social and business value by strengthening resource-constrained communities around the world. Through an integrated solution comprising portable ultrasound, tele-radiology, education and an innovative care delivery model, ITW is already bringing much-needed antenatal care to women in rural Uganda. The ITW solution has demonstrated significant success, as seen through a two-year study at the Nawanyago Health Center III in Uganda wherein, we have verified that ultrasound technology has a direct impact on maternal/neonatal clinical outcomes. I am on my way to visit the ITW pilot site at Nawanyago as well as two other sites that were subsequent added to the program and are now operational. We have two primary objectives for this trip:

1. To test the new Philips hand-held ultrasound system Visiq, in rural Uganda. 2. Conduct an enrichment program utilizing ultrasound to educate youth on pregnancy.

However, for me, this is unlike any other business trip. While writing this blog, my state of mind is 80% excitement and 20% anxiety….. Why anxious you ask? Probably because I have never been to Africa before, let alone rural Uganda. Maybe the fact that my suitcase looked like it should belong to a contestant on the television show Survivor rather than a business traveler. Of course, leaving my family behind doesn’t make it any easier. Yet, here I am two plane rides and multiple car rides away from the heart of the pearl of Africa.

So what makes this trip exciting for me? Two reasons: First, my daughter and I grew a mini butterfly habitat. Every day, we would study the progression of those little larvae into beautiful butterflies. Now, we both have a new appreciation for not just a caterpillar’s journey but more importantly, the nuances of metamorphosis – depth of insight matters, as they lead to the creation of solutions that are uniquely tailored for specific customer needs. Secondly, do you remember the first time you saw rainbow colors in a soap bubble and wondered as to where it came from? – curiosity, often times gives us the ability to look at challenges as opportunities and allows us to think differently. So this journey for me is about curiosity and learning. That’s at a personal level, but why is this important to all of us?

Let’s start with some numbers: • Uganda Population 2012 – 32.2 M • Expected population in 2020 – 44M • Ugandan population live in rural areas -87% • Number of Ugandan women who die each year due to pregnancy complication - 6000 • Number of birth complications occurring daily in rural Uganda - 555 • Total number of doctors in Uganda – 644 • % of doctors in urban areas – 70% • Number of radiologists in Uganda - 34

How is healthcare consumed by over 80% of the population that has access to only 30% of medically trained care-providers? How is it that a market where mobile network seems ubiquitous does not have access to basic antenatal care? What sorts of solutions are needed to bridge the access and affordability gaps? Most importantly, what can we do about it?

It has often been said that necessity is the mother of invention; I will submit that curiosity has something to do with it as well. So here I am at 35,000ft driven by my sense of wonder, questioning the status-quo, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone…..In some ways isn’t that what innovation is all about?

- Meera Gopalakrishnan Philips Healthcare

Featured - NOTITW Team