The Social Impact Abie Award recognizes a woman whose work is making a positive impact on women, technology, and society. This year’s winner is Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam, a Robert J. Carr Professor of Engineering who directs the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies at Duke University. There, she empowers trainees at the school and beyond to create impactful solutions to improve the lives of women and girls globally.
Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam has a mission to develop technology to have wide reaching impact in women’s health. Her research on women’s cancers focuses on designing innovations that enable complex services to be accessible at the primary care level for cancer prevention. Her research also helps with the development of tools that will make cancer treatment more effective and efficient.
She and her team developed the Pocket Colposcope, which has the potential to revolutionize cervical cancer screening in low resource communities by enhancing the effectiveness and scalability of the screening process, reducing loss to follow up and guiding effective treatment decisions.
Her idea for the Pocket Colposcope was borne out of sociocultural barriers to cervical cancer prevention. While Western cultures are accustomed to the world of modern gynecology for early cervical cancer screening, women in many parts of the world do not undergo a gynecological exam until they are symptomatic. Their first experience with the metal speculum is intimidating and painful. In fact, it is well documented that the speculum is a significant barrier to cervical cancer screening, regardless of geography. What’s more, while high resource settings have access to an expensive colposcope for magnified visualization of the cervix, low-resource communities often use the human-eye, which is not an objective or consistent method.
She has received recognition for her work through the TR100 Young Innovator Award from MIT, the Global Indus Technovator award from MIT, Era of Hope Scholar awards from the DOD, the Stasnell Family award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and the Emerging Leader in Global Health Award from the Consortium of Universities in Global Health. She is a fellow of several optical and biomedical engineering societies, including OSA, SPIE AIMBE. She has also been elected to the National Academy of Inventors. She is Co-editor of the Handbook of Biomedical Optics, and has presented the global impact of her work at the United Nations.