Vanshika Singh from Apeejay Stya University recently won the MERCK for Mothers Challenge; Jugaadathon 2015.
Meet Vanshika Singh, Student, School of Biosciences, Apeejay Stya University! She recently won the MERCK for Mothers Challenge; Jugaadathon 2015.
Our campus correspondent Mahadevan B Iyer in conversation with Vanshika:
Q: Hey Vanshika, so tell us something about yourself.
A: I am an ardent learner and a curious explorer. So, I’m pursuing my Bachelors in Biotechnology to align within that innate enthusiasm for Life Sciences in me. As a person of varied interests, I presently serve as the Climate Counsellor in association with UNFCCC, as the Vice president of the Advocacy and Outreach Program for Saujanya Foundation, a rural health initiative under process for the ASHOKA fellowship and I am the representative of TEAM MOM (Maternity over Mortality) from the Jugaadathon 2015.
Q: Great, so you said that the competition was called Jugaadathon right? Tell us something about the competition.
A: The event ‘Jugaadathon’ is an annual Medical Hackathon organized by CAMTech. This year it was organized in partnership with GE Healthcare, MIT Hack Medicine, and Harvard School of Medicine with GE Healthcare, MERCK and USAID as their prime sponsors. This year’s edition was hosted at the John F Welch Technology Centre by GE Headquarters in Bengaluru consisting of 220 participants divided into 65 teams on 48 hour long track from 27th June 2015 to 28th June 2015.
Q: So you said something about Maternity over Morality being the theme for your team. So how did you manage to put together this million dollar team and what was the theme all about?
A: The people were an eclectic mix of clinicians, community workers, biomedical engineers, electrical and software engineers, all applying their skills to solve pressing clinical problems in the 48 hours given for the hackathon. After an initial struggle to find the best team mates who would think and work on the same line of thoughts as me, I found myself and my other three team members sipping on coffee at 4 am the next morning, discussing prototypes for a medical device for early diagnosis of maternal sepsis. Maternal sepsis is a lethal infection that a mother can encounter after childbirth and is the 3rd largest cause of maternal deaths worldwide, very prominent in rural areas with deliveries mostly in unhygienic setups.
Q: So how did you give shape to the prototype from your raw idea?
A: With around 10 rejections in a span of 24 hours by top notch clinicians, mentors and Stanford India Bio design fellows, I and my team mates had too much adrenaline and coffee in our veins that night to get deterred by any dejection whatsoever. And then what followed was the presentation on day 2, where we had to pitch in our ideas under the MSD for Mothers challenge on Maternal Sepsis. The prototype we proposed was a bedside diagnostic kit for maternal sepsis. A usual diagnostic lab test presently takes 24-48 hours. Doctors thus have to wait till then to actually diagnose and treat maternal sepsis, a disease that spreads and kills in hours. Our aim was to introduce a bedside diagnostic kit that would ease the diagnosis, just as a pregnancy kit does.
Q: What was the exact take away lesson for you from the experience you had?
A: After presenting our idea amongst hundreds of people and an elite panel of Judges, I understood the art of scientific expression and bringing one’s message across as crisply as possible to a varied audience.
Q: When you were announced victors of the event, what was the immediate thing that hit you?
A: All of this happened to me too fast to absorb it all in. But one thing has imbibed in me for sure. The relationships that I built with my fellow teammates strengthened over our disappointments and eventual success, as well as the opportunities that have opened up for me that I never knew existed before, all in a span of 48 hours.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for future aspirants of JUGAADATHON?
A: CAMTech Jugaadathon is a platform that will not just open to you the possibility of transforming your ideas to reality, but it is more than that. You will network with some of the best minds in the field of medicine, design and business. You will also know where your best of abilities lie as you spend a night hacking medicine, alive on coffee and then later presenting your prototype in front of hundreds of mentors and fellow participants. I would advise all the future aspirants to participate with this very spirit of hacking medicine!
Q: Any special messages you’d like to give?
A: This is for my team mates from Jugaadathon 2015, Sharan Shanbhogue & Shrishti Singh; your awesomeness was what made my experience such a success.
Q: What has been the role of ASU in your journey so far?
A: I am thankful to my professors & teachers at Apeejay Stya University from the bottom of my heart. They have shown a reassuring belief in me and my abilities, time and again and have conditioned me to venture out and experience the field of research and academics in its true sense.