B2R Scholar and soon-to-be graduate of MIT, Audace Nakeshimana, has combined his passion for Teleradiology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Entrepreneurship through his start-up, Insightiv, which builds cutting-edge digital systems to tackle healthcare challenges in developing countries.
Given the severe disparity of medical specialists, such as radiologists, in developing countries, Audace developed a proven technology at MIT that uses AI to assist medical specialists in interpreting and diagnosing medical images and significantly improving patient care.
“Medical imaging is the backbone of modern medicine, because it allows healthcare practitioners to diagnose and treat internal diseases in a way that wasn’t possible before,” Audace said. “Unfortunately, there is a severe disparity in access to medical imaging specialists around the world, especially among radiologists whose job is to make interpretations of medical images for diagnosis or to perform interventions. ”
The U.S. has approximately 100 radiologists per million of the population. Rwanda has less than 1 radiologist per million. These numbers are almost the same for all developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The implications of this are severe for patients who have to wait for weeks for diagnosis, leading to severe healthcare outcomes. In addition, radiologists are overworked and sometimes hindered in their ability to diagnose patients properly due to the overwhelming number in need of care.
“The moment I learned about this disparity and these consequences, I knew this is something I was meant to help fix. I am using AI as one of the technological tools to address the problem because studying at MIT and working at Google has taught me how it works. I’ve seen the potential this technology can have in improving efficiency in almost any domain.”
Audace returned to Rwanda last month to complete his last semester at MIT while launching a pilot for Insightive in Rwanda. This decision did not come easily, though. By the start of his junior year at MIT, Audace had already received a full-ride scholarship to pursue a graduate degree at MIT, an opportunity he fully intended to take.
“I had always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but until recently, I usually saw myself as someone who wanted to get “all the education” and “make all the money” before I could take the risk of putting myself out there to start and run my company,” Audace said. “However, the older I get, the more I realize that there are a lot of problems, challenges, and opportunities – especially in our countries – that cannot wait.”
“Choosing to defer graduate school was a very difficult decision… However, when I started learning about the healthcare system in Rwanda and in the region, I realized that there are very urgent problems, and for us who are lucky to have the skills and resources to tackle some of the challenges, delaying even by a single day is really irresponsible. There are so many people we can help save by acting now and not waiting tomorrow.”
Moving forward, Audace is focused on operationalizing teleradiology and AI use in Rwanda. Having already developed the proven technology, the greatest challenge he faces will be getting healthcare professionals up to speed on the power and limitations of the technology and ensuring that the technology is used appropriately. Once the technology is adopted, Audace and his team will be able to serve and improve the healthcare outcomes of thousands, if not millions, of patients.