Q: What is your role at USAID?

A: IserveasSeniorInnovationAdvisorintheCenterforAcceleratingInnovationandImpact (CII).Ico manage the innovation portfolios supported by the CombatingZika and Future Threats and Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenges. In this role, I provide guidance to innovators who are creating novel solutions to increase global health security against infectious diseases and reduce maternal and new born mortality. Located in the BayArea,I also look for ways to engage with local academic institutions, the tech industry, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley to help accelerate the development and introduction of global health innovations in low-and middle-income countries.

Original Link:

https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1864/Vikas-Meka-Staff-Spotlight-508.pdf

Q: What did you study?

I did my B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Florida.

Q: How did you end up at USAID?

A: What seems like a lifetime ago, I was the principal engineer at a biomedical startup that I helped launch. I was responsible for creating amedical device that improved detection of preeclampsia during pregnancy. Years later the startup received a Saving Lives at Birth award to take this technology to low-resource settings. By then, I had left the startup to pursue an MBA at UC Berkeley, and then worked in management consulting to advise health insurance companies and hospitals on health policy, but I continued to follow my former colleagues’ progress. Watching them bring an innovation to developing countries made me realize that my real passion was in global health. One conversation led to another, and I met Marissa Leffler, who leads the Innovation Team at CII. After learning about what CII does, I knew this would be a great opportunity for me. As luck would have it, there was an open position and I was fortunate to join the team!

Q: What makes you passionate about your job?

A: Growing up in Kenya exposed me to how many disparities are driven by socio-economic conditions and access to health services. These early experiences impacted me greatly and sparked my interest to better understand how we can use technology to increase healthcare access to all. In my current role I am lucky to work with smart, accomplished (some who are MacArthur Genius recipients) and yet down -to-earth innovators whom we support through our Grand Challenges. These innovators are making great contributions to solve some of the most pressing and challenging problems in global healthtoday. They are truly inspiring and I’m honored to work with them.

Q: What topic(s) in global health interest(s) you the most and why?

A: We are living in an information age where data is ubiquitous, but our ability to digest and find nuggets of knowledge is becoming ever more complex. As sensors become cheaper, there is going to be an increasing availability of data, and this is where I believe machine learning and artificial intelligence can quickly tease out insights for decision making. I’m interested to see how these technologies can be applied

in a global health setting to take on challenges from early disease detection to prediction of medical supply shortage to identification of high risk pregnancy. I am inspired by our collaboration with our innovators to see how these technologies can be used globally in low-resource settings.