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Joel Selanikio
2009 winner of the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability

Martin Fisher

Joel Selanikio is a pediatrician, former Wall Street computer consultant, and epidemiologist who has merged his experience in these fields to improve the quality of life in developing countries. A year after graduating college and working on Wall Street, Selanikio returned to school to pursue his medical degree, and is now a board certified pediatrician. Upon finishing his pediatric residency, Selanikio completed a two-year fellowship at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. During his career as a U.S. Public Health Service officer at the CDC, concentrating on epidemiology and outbreak response, he saw areas for improvement in health data collection. Determined to improve existing and outdated methods, he created EpiSurveyor, for which he has won the 2009 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.

Selanikio’s company DataDyne, which he co-founded with technologist Rose Donna, developed EpiSurveyor in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health. This was a response to Selanikio’s realization that the low utilization of mobile computers (including PDAs and mobile phones) for data collection and analysis stemmed from the complexity and cost of available software, rather than the hardware. EpiSurveyor is a free, open-source mobile software program that makes data collection a more manageable and eco-friendly task for public health workers. EpiSurveyor is now being used as a World Health Organization (WHO) standard method of data collection.

EpiSurveyor was initially funded through a grant from the World Bank and is now financed by the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership. Selanikio helped form this alliance, and through this, his innovation has been implemented for use by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the American Red Cross, the International Red Cross, SurfAid International and many others, in addition to the WHO.

Selanikio has received various awards for field epidemiology and outbreak response, most recently the Tech Museum Award for Health, three Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Awards for Outstanding Service and the U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal. Selanikio took time off from DataDyne in 2005 to serve with the International Rescue Committee as a field doctor in Indonesia, treating those injured by the tsunami. For his efforts, he received the Haverford Award for Service to Humanity.

A frequent guest speaker, Selanikio is a recognized expert in the use of information technologies in developing countries, with recent lectures at CDC, Google, MIT, National Institutes of Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, WHO and Yale. He is a passionate advocate for increasing the capacity of developing countries to address their own health issues and needs.

Selanikio continues to practice medicine as assistant professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. where he resides. Selanikio is also working to create technology centers to further the careers of young African computer science students and graduates. These centers are set to open in 2009 with funding from the UN Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Selanikio also founded the Washington International Health Meetup, which coordinates monthly meetings of Washington, D.C.-area students and mentors working in the international health field.

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