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YSM Resident Ruchit Nagar Receives 3rd Prize in The Trinity Challenge

September 13, 2021
by Jane E. Dee

Ruchit Nagar, MD, MPH, first-year resident in the Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency Program at Yale School of Medicine, (YSM) and his team have won 3rd prize in the international health innovation competition, The Trinity Challenge.

Nagar’s project, Khushi Health, won $660,000 in funding for its innovative data-driven response to COVID-19 in India. Khushi Health’s mobile health platform empowers 60,000 community health workers, who have screened over 14 million beneficiaries in Rajasthan, India’s largest state. This has generated hyper-granular maps of communicable and non-communicable disease for health officials to make data-driven interventions. Nagar began working on the platform while an undergraduate at the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID) at Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Nagar, 28, is CEO and co-founder of the technology and public health non-profit Khushi Baby. After earning a combined BS-MPH from Yale University, he went on to earn an MD from Harvard. He was recognized as a Distinguished Young Alumnus by the Yale School of Public Health in 2016 and as a Forbes 30 under 30 leader in Health Care in 2016.

“We are very proud of Ruchit and his accomplishments as a global health leader,” said Benjamin Doolittle, MD, MDIV, program director of the Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency Program. “We are so very pleased that he is back with us at Yale.”

Nagar and his team adapted Khushi Baby’s solutions to Khushi Health’s winning Covid-19 response platform. The platform began as a novel approach to track immunizations in last-mile settings. By using a Near Field Communication chip, the platform provides a portable, digital, and easily accessible medical record to patients. Scanning the chip with a smartphone allows community health workers to see the child’s due vaccinations and growth chart, without needing internet connectivity. When online, data syncs enable health officials to see analytics on a dashboard and also trigger automated voice calls in the local dialect to spread awareness and reminders. The platform first expanded to include the reproductive and child health continuum. Over 40,000 mothers and children were tracked, and the digital intervention was shown in a 3200-mother randomized controlled trial to improve infant immunizations by 1.66 times. Now with the adaptation and scale-up of the platform to address COVID-19, Ruchit and his team are moving to address primary health care needs in the community more holistically.

Congratulations on winning The Trinity Challenge 3rd prize! What prompted you to return to Yale and the internal medicine/pediatrics residency program at YSM?

Thank you, but the credit must be shared with the entire Khushi Baby team, and to the partners and beneficiaries who have stood with us. I returned to Yale for its strong community, interdisciplinary learning environment, and its support of innovation. I have had a chance to apply my learning from the Yale CEID, School of Public Health, School of Management, Human Nature Lab, and Global Health Leadership Initiative. I’m excited to draw new connections, working alongside some of the most thoughtful colleagues and mentors through the Yale Med-Peds Residency Program.

What have you learned so far in your residency that you can apply to Khushi Health and Khushi Baby?

I am recognizing many parallels between how health care is delivered here in Connecticut and back in rural India. There are many commonalities from the importance of social determinants of health, to the impact of care coordination, to the promise and burden of introducing new technologies to automate workflows. I’m specifically interested in applying evidence-based guidelines and principles from our primary care training to improve clinical decision support tools for community health workers in India. I am also looking to draw parallels between population health management frameworks, considering emerging data sets that are coming from underrepresented settings.

What are your plans after you complete your residency at YSM?

I am still exploring my interests clinically, and I am still very early in my training. I have enjoyed my experiences in infectious disease, critical care, and hospital medicine so far. Overall, I would like to practice in both medicine and pediatrics, while also balancing my interests in digital health systems for global public health. In this way I hope to move between microscopic and macroscopic views of health and medicine to open new paths to create impact.

This is not the first large prize your company has won. Khushi Baby was the grand prize winner of a $250,000 Johnson & Johnson Prize in 2018, winning over 1,061 registrations across 74 countries. What is it about the platform that makes it so innovative?

We are using novel combinations of technology to enhance the platform from Near Field Communication to biometrics to machine learning models that can predict community health worker diligence and predict spatiotemporal disease trends. These tools and features allow us to increase accountability for the health services we are tracking. We also are putting together the pieces of the primary health care puzzle in a unified form for community health workers in India, where the previous attempts have been put together in silos.

The key ingredients to success include out interdisciplinary team, our commitment to working in the communities we are serving, and our rigorous approach to measuring our value-add.

You obviously are very passionate about your work in global public health. What led you to this work, and what are you most proud of?

I had some formative experiences during my undergraduate years at Yale that exposed me to health care delivery in global health settings. I was fortunate to take Joe Zinter and Bo Hopkin’s course at the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design on Appropriate Technology and the Developing World which was focused on addressing the world’s immunization gap for infants (although still relevant now in the setting of COVID-19 vaccines). It has been a crazy journey to go from class project to 40-member full-time non-profit. I’m most proud of the team that we have put together, our resilience and adaptability over the years, and our most recent progress in being selected as the Nodal Technical Support Partner to the Department of Health of Rajasthan, India’s largest state, where we have a platform to advocate for and implement change at a larger scale. And what’s most exciting is that we are truly, only just getting started.

Submitted by Jane E. Dee on September 13, 2021