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Dr. Kamran Khan: Arming Healthcare Practitioners with the Tools and Knowledge to Outsmart Infectious Disease Transmission

This is the third in a five-part series in which we introduce Canadian Medical Association members to the recipients of the first round of Joule™ Innovation grants. Please watch for additional stories in the series.

Dr. Kamran Khan

With increased travel and globalization comes the likelihood that an infectious disease appearing in one country could spread rapidly to another - SARS, Ebola and Zika being recent examples. As these global disease emergencies become more prevalent, it is clear that prediction is a formidable challenge and it has put physicians and our healthcare system on high alert.

Recognizing the urgent need for preparedness, Dr. Kamran Khan, infectious disease physician and innovator, has dedicated his work to developing solutions to address this global healthcare challenge. Dr. Khan (MD, MPH) is a practicing infectious disease physician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and Associate Professor with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Khan completed fellowships in Infectious Diseases, Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Cornell and also has a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University. He has been an advisor to the White House on emerging global pathogens and was recently invited by the World Health Organization to serve on its Emergency Committee on the Zika virus.

But Dr. Khan’s resume doesn’t end there. He is also the founder of BlueDot, a social benefit corporation dedicated to creating a healthier and safer world by helping to prevent or mitigate the impacts of dangerous global infectious disease threats. BlueDot harnesses big data to develop digital health solutions related to global infectious diseases. It joins a highly talented team of experts in geographic information systems, spatial analytics, data visualization and computer sciences with content experts in clinical infectious diseases, travel medicine, and public health.

To further the work of BlueDot, Dr. Khan and his team are developing PanMEDIC, a web-based global early warning system for infectious diseases and clinical aid for physicians. In order to anticipate which diseases have the greatest potential to come to Canada, PanMEDIC will curate the latest data on tropical and emerging diseases and translate it into a GIS database linked to worldwide patterns of air travel.

BlueDot BlueDot

“The overwhelming majority of physicians lack clinical training or experience in managing emerging infectious diseases. Yet, they are most likely to be first in contact with patients carrying these diseases and therefore at high risk of being infected themselves.” says Khan.

The goal of PanMEDIC is to deliver timely education to physicians notifying them when a disease is known or suspected to be circulating in their area, or anywhere in the world that they are strongly connected to through global air travel. By providing physicians with “just in time” education about an important disease, PanMEDIC will help increase physician readiness.

How does PanMEDIC work? PanMEDIC organizes information on important global infectious disease epidemics around the world as they occur. It concurrently monitors the movements of more than 4 billion passengers on commercial flights worldwide every year to anticipate where and when these diseases are mostly likely to spread. Finally, it directs timely educational messages to healthcare providers practicing in areas of the world at greatest risk of disease spread, with a goal of enabling early recognition and minimizing the potential for outbreaks.

“We feel that PanMEDIC will be a powerful tool and an important step toward preparedness and infectious disease readiness, not only in Canada but around the world. “- claims Khan.

Dr. Khan’s accomplishments and dedication are nothing short of inspiring and a perfect example of the type of innovators Joule™ is excited to support.

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