The Future of Healthcare: Emory's Scientific Brainpower Poised to Make an Impact

A diverse collection of panelists worked together to disrupt healthcare norms on the eve of Boston's first major winter storm this year.

By Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco 81C
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On the eve of Boston’s first Nor’easter of the season, our southern colleagues hosted a riveting discussion at the Museum of Science (of course where else?) on the Future of Healthcare. Nearly every speaker on the panel had professional credentials and experiences that crossed over many sectors of science, business, and healthcare social impact. They were diverse in their fields, but shared the common vision to pursue work that would disrupt the norm. Here are a few highlights from the Q & A which was thoughtfully led by Dr. Rhonda Moore 06G 15B from the Partners HealthCare Innovation team.


There are many stakeholders in the complex healthcare ecosystem. There wasn’t time to cover all of them, but a few stood out:

Researchers: Amri Johnson 96PH, speaking on behalf of the Novartis Institute of BioMedical Reseach, delved into the topic he referred to as the “sociology of innovation”—in short, finding ways to improve the way scientists interact with each other—creating “sustainable dialogue” versus competition in the lab environment. He provided a fascinating window into this aspect of advancing science—the human interaction and how it can block or accelerate progress depending on if it has a proper working framework.

Policy Makers: Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford 00C 01PH believes strongly that to make an impact, policy makers (in government) must see and hear the first in scientists (best and brightest) and give them a place at the table. She went so far as to say scientists and medical experts should actually be the policy-makers. It’s too risky to walk away and not be privy to what happens in your wake.

Private Enterprise: The panel had representation from both large and small companies, and interestingly, each was focused on an innovative approach to solving a healthcare problem. Arjun Rangarajan 13PH represents an incubator inside the Brigham; Adam Rogers 92C 96M is CEO of Hemera Biosciences, a startup focused on using gene therapy targeted at macular degeneration; Nabiha Saklayen 12C, CEO and co-founder of Cellino Biotech, runs a cell therapy startup using synthetic biology and nanotechnology. Recognizing the possible challenges of scientists in an entrepreneurial environment, Nabiha is instilling a strong value system that puts diversity and cross-disciplinary capabilities front and center.

Patients: Clearly patients and participants in clinical trials need a voice and need more insight into costs and choices. Technology and the market may force some changes. Chip Wilkerson 85Ox 87C 95B, Director of Consumerism and Connected Health at Johnson & Johnson, pointed out that Uber is working with hospitals to ensure that clinical trial patients get to their appointments. The question of “industry challenges” was raised and they agreed on the following calls to action:

  • Embark on a multi-sector, collaborative approach. This is critical to solving healthcare problems—including research, policy-making, patient care, insurance, etc.
  • Make preventative care and treatment a higher priority.
  • Think globally and find “equity” in healthcare solutions such that underserved parts of the world are not intermediated from healthcare. ROI in the drug industry should include social impact or Social ROI as critical to development efforts.
  • Recognize that the healthcare industry is nearly impossible for all onlookers to comprehend. The industry must become more transparent. Most doctors would not actually know the cost of a “surgery” of any kind. Patients have a right to know and understand costs.
  • Think differently about how to get attention of key stakeholders and raise the level of discussion. For example, is the disease that is obesity a threat to national security? If so, we can get their attention. The fact that qualification for military service requires a particular BMI is an example of how to get their attention.
  • Address the archaic practices and resource-challenges of the FDA. It is clearly an overworked organization that has restrictions in terms of both capacity and taking advantage of today’s communication opportunities. It is ripe for an overhaul.

Looking back at my own Emory experience and the preeminence of the pre-med population, I can now see that Emory has created a high caliber community of healthcare professionals that represent the balanced outlook needed for the Future of Healthcare. From the outside looking in, there appears to be an opportunity for Emory to step up its thought leadership and collaboration—leveraging the collective voices of the diaspora of medical and scientific professionals spawned on the Atlanta campus. Emory’s Gayathri Srinivasan, Director of Public and Private Partnerships who wrapped up the session, is in a perfect place to help bring forward these important initiatives.

Editor's Note: Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco 81C is a marketing advisor focused on BTB & Tech under MarketingRecon.com. She holds an MBA in International Business/Marketing from NYU Stern and pioneered the International Management Program with UIBE in Beijing in 1987. She served as the NYNEX Managing Director in Asia from 1988-90.

Based in Gloucester, MA, she has a parallel vocation as a sea glass jewelry artistShe recently received the Arts & Cultural Heritage Award by Discover Gloucester for her work as a Cape Ann Artisan, seARTS Cape Ann, and as founder of the highly acclaimed runway event, Celebrate Wearable Art.