Ramanujam, Asiedu Receive the 2018 Velji Award for Global Health

Nimmi Ramanujam and graduate student Mercy Asiedu recognized for innovative projects that address women’s health disparities

Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, and PhD student Mercy Asiedu, received the 2018 Drs. Anvar and Pari Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Faculty and Trainee Awards from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The award, which goes to one faculty member and one student or trainee, honors researchers who create innovative projects with a high potential impact on the lives of people in low-income settings.

As the director of the Global Women’s Health Technologies Center, a joint center between the Pratt School of Engineering and the Duke Global Health Institute, Ramanujam’s research is focused on creating and improving diagnostic and therapeutic tools across the cancer care continuum. Her most recent creation is the Pocket Colposcope, a compact tool she created to enable healthcare providers to both screen and diagnose cervical cancer without expensive imaging equipment.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the work we are doing in women’s health,” says Ramanujam. “My hope is that through technology innovation we can close the gap in health care disparities, particularly for well-understood diseases like cervical cancer.”

Mercy Asiedu As a PhD student in Ramanujam’s lab, Asiedu also conducts research centered on using light to detect cancer in low-resource areas. During her time at Duke, Asiedu has worked on ways to improve the screening process with the Pocket Colposcope. Many of the women who need to be screened are afraid of the speculum. She has developed a speculum-free version of the Pocket Colposcope and image processing tools that would enable women to perform self-exams without the need for a physician or health provider, affording the woman the privacy she needs.

"It is a great honor to be the 2018 student winner of the Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation. Global health, specifically as it relates to improving women's health in resource-limited settings, is particularly close to my heart,” says Asiedu. “This recognition for doing something I truly enjoy makes me even more determined to pursue my work on developing a low-cost tool for speculum-free, automated cervical cancer screening. I thank my mentor, collaborators and lab mates at the Center for Global Women's Health Technologies for supporting me throughout my journey to impact women's health. "

The awards will be presented in New York City at the 9th Annual CUGH Conference on March 17, 2018. In addition to the award, Ramanujam and Asiedu will each receive a plaque and $750 in funds to support their continued work in global health.