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DiversityNursing Blog

This 19-Year-Old College Student Built an Artificial Brain That Detects Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 01:35 PM

By Elizabeth Kiefer

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Brittany Wenger is one seriously smart cookie. In 2012, the then-17-year-old submitted her "artificial brain" technology -- which assesses tissue samples for breast cancer -- to the Google Science Fair and walked away with the grand prize. It was no wonder: Her invention, which uses a type of computer program called neural networks, can identify complex data patterns and make breast cancer detection calls with 99 percent accuracy. But she's not stopping there: Brittany hopes to help wipe out cancer completely.

Since she took home the gold two years ago, she's been named one of Time's 30 Under 30, given a truly inspiring TED Talk, and launched her app, Cloud4Cancer, which allows doctors to enter their own data and fuel continued cancer research. And did we mention she's also holding down a full course load at Duke University? Um, yeah. 

We recently chatted with Brittany about how she got started, her challenges along the way, and how she balances being a college student with breaking the barriers of cancer diagnostics.

How did you get into computer programming?

When I was in 7th grade I took an elective class on futuristic thinking. When we were assigned our final paper, I decided to write mine on technology of the future. The moment I started researching artificial intelligence and its transcendence into human knowledge, I was inspired. I went out and bought a coding textbook, and taught myself how to code. I remember one of the first projects that I ever worked on was an artificial neural network that taught people how to play soccer.

You're a self-taught coder who went on to create a potentially game-changing cancer detection tool. How did that happen?

Well, it definitely didn't happen overnight. I spent over five years working with neural networks, starting with an entire year of research to try and recognize patterns and connect breast cancer to artificial intelligence. I faced a lot of roadblocks along the way, as this was a very complicated program with no predefined solution. I went through thousands of pages of coding and data that was available through public domains, and performed over 7.6 million test trials. I two failed projects before finally succeeding on my third attempt, taking what didn't work the first few times to optimize the code that helped build the Cloud4Cancer app.

Why did you decide on developing breast cancer detection technology?

When I was 15, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a very close-knit family, so seeing the impact that the disease can have on a woman and her family, firsthand, was so real to me. When I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, I knew that I wanted to get involved in making the process better for patients. Now, the coding that I first used to help detect breast cancer has been extended into diagnosing other types of cancers, including blood-based diseases like leukemia.

What's been the most rewarding part of the process?

The people. I've already had the opportunity to work with real patients and breast cancer survivors, as well as talk with kids who are interested in doing research or coding in the future. Knowing that my cloud application has the potential to save lives and expedite the process of discovery is so rewarding. I still get chills thinking about how, a couple of years down the line, my research can actually contribute to finding the cure for cancer.

You've got a lot on your plate these days, between Cloud4Cancer and school. How do you balance everything?

The great thing about where I am with school right now is that my schedule is entirely what I make it. I can attend classes during the week and then travel over some weekends. School is not something that I will ever bend on, as I'm actually going for my MD, PhD in pediatric oncology. At the same time, my initiative is so important to me, I don't want either one to ever outweigh the other. Luckily, I think they complement each other well and what I'm learning in my classes helps me improve Cloud4Cancer.

What's one thing you want other young women to know if they're thinking about going the tech route?

If you're interested, go for it! There have never been so many available resources or opportunities -- for women, and for society as a whole -- to pursue a career in the field. I love how technology allows you to make new things by putting together the little pieces and working towards something bigger that can really benefit the world. There's no greater feeling than solving a problem and seeing your code come to life.


Topics: innovation, artificial intelligence, college student, technology, brain, medical, cancer, detection, breast cancer, app

Android App That Helps The Deaf Have A Conversation On The Phone

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 10:57 AM

By Federico Guerrini

RogerVoice phone app for deaf people1 940x380 resized 600

I just had a Skype chat with entrepreneur Olivier Jeannel about his new product. It was a text chat, as Olivier – just like roughly 70 million people in the world (of which approximately 26 million of Americans) – suffers from profound hearing loss. If he has his way, soon this is no longer going to be a problem. Together with his associate Sidney Burks and product manager Pablo Seuc-Rocher, he’s working on the launch of RogerVoice, an Android app that has been designed from the ground up for those who cannot hear on the phone.

With RogerVoice, the deaf or hard-of-hearing person starts a call and receives on his smartphone instant live transcriptions of what the other speaker is saying, regardless if he is speaking in English or another of the many other languages recognized by the system (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Greek and Japanese top the list).

While the idea, generally speaking, is brilliant, there are still some hurdles to overcome. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology is still far from flawless; also, unlike other softwares (Dragon and friends) that can be trained to recognize a single voice, improving this way the recognition rate, RogerVoice has to work with any kind of voice, so don’t imagine you can have a long, complex conversation without any trouble.

“You might use it to confirm an appointment with a doctor – Olivier says – or tell a plumber to come”. Basic stuff, but enough to significantly improve the quality of life of a deaf person, allowing he or she to rely less on other people’s intervention. It’s also up to the hearing person to make a better effort to enunciate, to help the voice recognition software’s performance. So you could in fact have a long and articulate conversation, provided that the counterpart is a relative, a friend, or someone that’s kind enough not to speak in a rush.

I asked Jeannel if – when the problem is not too severe – an hearing aid wouldn’t work as well, and the answer was quite interesting, because it pointed to the social implications of suffering from hearing loss.

“The interesting fact is – he says – that most deaf people don’t wear hearing aids, only 1 in 5 apparently bother to get equipped. This is because wearing hearing aids is often associated to a kind of social stigma. Also, of the profoundly deaf population, most manage to speak, but understanding a conversation without visual cues is difficult, if not impossible. In my case, impossible without lip-reading. More and more profoundly deaf use cochlear implants, which is a revolution: it helps a lot to understand speech, but it’s still quite difficult over a phone”.

The app is designed to be Bluetooth compatible, meaning that the RogerVoice app could connect directly to a Bluetooth-equipped hearing aid for a better listening experience and, after the launch of the Android version, the team will start working on the iOS and Windows ones.

The business model will be based on subscriptions, with one year of unlimited calls priced at $59 for those that will contribute to the Kickstarter campaign that’s currently running to support the product’s development. As for the time to market, if the $20,000 is reached on Kickstarter, founder hope to release the product by the end of the year. “Hopefully for Christmas – Jeannel says”.


Topics: deaf, hearing, hearing loss, voice, technology, medical, patients, app

AtlantiCare RN develops smart phone app to help heart disease patients

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:44 PM

Shannon Patel, RN, BA, CCRN, CMC, PCCN, manager of the heart failure program at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Galloway, N.J., and an RN-to-BSN student at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden (N.J.), led a team at the hospital’s Heart Institute that developed a new smart phone app that helps patients manage heart disease and stay out of the hospital.

The WOW ME 2000mg app helps patients, caregivers and family members identify and manage symptoms of heart failure, according to the release.

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"This tool was designed to cross the healthcare continuum and has allowed our organization to deliver very important self-management education," Patel said in the release.

The WOW ME 2000mg app reminds patients to weigh themselves; measure their output of fluids; walk and be active; take their medications; evaluate signs and symptoms; and limit sodium intake to 2,000 mg or less, with 1,500 mg being optimal. The app prompts users with reminders and allows them to enter information about how they are managing their symptoms. It also links them with AtlantiCare’s Heart Failure Resource Team and other providers. Patel said in the release that many heart failure programs around the country are struggling to find ways to successfully teach heart failure self-management techniques. She said there is no standardized approach to reinforcement of the information taught to patients and that oftentimes patients receive differing and conflicting information depending on where they go for treatment.

"This tool standardizes heart failure self-management for patients," Patel said in the release.

The app is based on a reference guide Patel developed with AtlantiCare’s Heart Failure Resource Center and information technology team in 2010. It was released as a free downloadable iPhone app in January 2013. The team currently is developing the app for Android users. 

Patel said in the release that the AtlantiCare team also is working on an upgraded version that will include a blood pressure tracker and heart rate tracker, as well as a place for patients to track their personal health goals. She said heart disease is a manageable condition and arming patients with the best information will help them be engaged in their care.

Download the free app at


Topics: heart disease, AtlantiCare, healthcare, RN, iphone, app

20 mobile apps for nurses in 2012

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 @ 02:25 PM

by Lynda Lampert

Imobile appf you have an iPhone, iPad or other mobile device, you likely have a ton of apps taking up space. While some of those apps are likely tailored for fun (Angry Birds, Words with Friends), there’s no question that you can use your smartphone to serve your nursing career.

Of course, when you’re in your scrubs and ready to tackle the shift, using mobile apps to get information on drugs to anatomy to conditions is a no-brainer way to better treat your patients and keep reference materials easily accessible. Here’s a look at 20 top clinical apps for nurses in 2012!

Not all of these apps are free, but when you think about the great services they provide—such as keeping you on top of ever-changing medical data—it’s well worth the money.

1. Davis Mobile NCLEX-RN Med-Surg: If you’re still a student and studying for your boards, this app will give you questions to answer while you’re waiting for the bus, sitting in front of the television or hanging out between classes. The convenience of questions by phone was unheard of only a few years ago. Now you can study in your downtime.
2. Pill Identifier by Oh no! Your patient accidentally drop his pills on the floor. Unfortunately, you have no idea which medications they were! When you call the pharmacy for new ones, what will you tell them? Pill Identifier lets you look up pills by their common features to find out which ones you need to reorder.
3. Skyscape Medical Resources: This app is a great bundle of useful tools for nurses rolled into one. The free version includes comprehensive info on prescription drugs, a medical calculator by specialty, evidence-based clinical information on hundreds of diseases and symptom-related topics and timely content that nurses need to know on-the-go such as journal summaries, breaking clinical news and drug alerts.
4. Instant ECG: An Electrocardiogram Rhythms Interpretation Guide: With more than 90 high-resolution images of ECGs, this app is perfect for the telemetry nurse who often needs to interpret rhythms. Let’s face it, some of them are just plain tough to remember, and this app makes them easily accessible when you’re stumped.
5. Critical Care ACLS Guide: In addition to laying out the ACLS algorithms, this app has such helpful information as the rule of 9s for burns, chest X-ray interpretation and 12-lead EKG interpretation. This will come in handy for any nurse who is working in the ICU or other critical care area.
6. Fast Facts for Critical Care: In keeping with the critical care theme, this app offers even more in-depth knowledge you need when working in a critical unit. Based on the books by Kathy White, this app includes information on managing sepsis, heart failure and 16 classes of critical care drugs.
7. Pocket Lab Values: Sure, you have the lab values that come along with lab reports nowadays, but sometimes you aren’t at your computer to know the specific values of certain labs. This app helps with that by keeping you up to date on numbers, such as ABGs, lumbar puncture and immunology values.
8. Pocket Body: Musculoskeletal by Pocket Anatomy: For nursing students, memorizing the names of bones and muscles is often one of the most challenging parts of school. With this app, you will have the names and structures available to study—either on the job or when trying to prepare for that all-important test.
9. Sleep Sounds: Need to relax? On your lunch break, you can play the soothing sounds of a thunderstorm, the wind or a cat purring to calm your mind and escape from the rigors of the floor. Just don’t get too relaxed—you need to finish your shift!
10. IDdx: Infectious Disease Queries: This handy reference of more than 250 diseases allows you to type in the symptom of an infectious disease and see a display of all the diseases that contain that symptom. You’re sure to find the reason for your patient’s problem.
11. Harriet Lane Handbook: If you work in peds, this app is just the one you need. It focuses on the conditions of childhood, how to dose medications for children and immunization schedules. When working with kids, you have to know a different set of rules, and this is the handbook for that.
12. MRSA eGuideline: MRSA is a big problem in hospitals today, and you need to know the information that’s going to help keep your patients safe from this condition. This app talks about vancomycin dosing, drug information and how to deal with MRSA in infants.
13. Symptomia: This is another app that allows you to input a symptom, and it will return for you all possible diseases that have that symptom. It includes information on abdominal distention, vertigo and coughing, among other common symptoms.
14. The Color Atlas of Family Medicine: This app comes with a hefty price tag of $95, but is worth the investment for the full-color pictures on your phone or iPad that show common skin conditions, rashes and other conditions in a glorious multimedia presentation.
15. Anesthesia Drugs: Fast: If you’re working in the OR or studying to become a nurse anesthetist, this will come in handy for calculating your drug dosages. Simply enter a weight and the proper dose is given to you for a wide range of anesthesia drugs.
16. Med Mnemonics: We all need help remembering the vast amount of information that comes at us in nursing school and on the job. One of the easiest ways to remember is with mnemonics that help to jog your memory. This app lists all the common aides to studying in a simple format.
17. Heart Murmur Pro: The Heart Sound Database: Sometimes it’s hard to know what sounds are important when listening to the heart with your stethoscope. This app has a collection of the common and uncommon heart sounds so that you can learn to identify them.
18. palmPEDi: Pediatric Emergency Medicine Tape for the PICU, OR, ED: When working with children in critical care areas, you need to know the equipment sizes, drug doses and other peds-specific knowledge to act fast. This app puts all of that information on your phone and at your command.
19. Medscape: This app gives you the latest in medical news right at your fingertips. You can also look up unknown drugs, conditions and procedures directly from the app. The icing on the cake? It’s totally free!
20. Davis’s Drug Guide 2012: This is the go-to guide for nurses when they want to look up the actions of a medication. This app is a little more pricey than some other apps, but the fact that it is made by Davis and has such a great reputation as a guide for nurses makes it worth the price.

Topics: nursing, apps, nurse, nurses, mobile, app

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