Improving Access to Care Around the World

Bringing telehealth solutions to Nigeria and beyond.

Author | Lilli Khatibi

Photo courtesy of Ikenna Nwamba

Ikenna Nwamba (M.D. 2015) spent his childhood engrossed in scientific literature. Flipping through the pages, he was enamored of new technologies that conveyed promise for improved health and well-being.

During visits with extended family in Nigeria — his parents' birthplace — he had an opportunity to learn about his culture as well as the hardships experienced by those living in the developing world. During a trip to his village's clinic at a young age, he witnessed the negative impact of limited health care access, an experience that helped to shape his future ambitions. A recent mother of triplets experienced hemorrhagic shock; because blood supplies were difficult to access and care was delayed, the young woman died. He continued to take notice of the societal consequences that manifested because of the limited health care system. His observations, coupled with his fascination of science and technology, led him to pursue a career focused on health care service delivery and innovation.

"I chose a career in medicine as a means to help those I saw suffering from preventable conditions. My goal has always been to create a positive impact at scale," he says. "For me, that started with understanding how to care for patients first."

At U-M, Nwamba excelled in his studies. Between his second and third years of medical school, he volunteered at Harris & Hughes Hospital in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. While there, he fell ill with typhoid and malaria.

"Falling ill in Nigeria crystallized the vision," he recounts. "It was striking to me that, in a country where mobile phone use is widespread, I couldn't access a physician on-call service where I could schedule an appointment or quickly obtain relevant medical advice."

These first-hand experiences compelled Nwamba to found PogoDoc, a telehealth solution built to improve access to care for patients in Africa. "In light of advancement in technology and medicine, the challenge of health care has evolved from investigating breakthroughs at the benchside to facilitating greater access at the bedside."

PogoDoc is a scheduling software platform created to empower clinicians with telehealth tools that allow them to engage with patients outside of the traditional office-based model of care delivery. "Initially, I hypothesized that, given Nigeria's high level of mobile phone penetration, telehealth services could follow the same trend of adoption," he says.

During his third and fourth years of medical school, Nwamba's roommate was Ikponmosa Olomu, a graduate student at the School of Information. "If it weren't for the collegial collaboration fostered at U-M, I would never have been exposed to the upcoming breakthroughs in information technology that set me on the course to create PogoDoc," Nwamba says.

Through his collaboration with his roommate and other peers in the College of Engineering and Ross School of Business, he was able to leverage a multidisciplinary team to develop the first prototype of PogoDoc. "U-M was integral to the success of PogoDoc by providing numerous resources, including software development support and a robust business library."

Now, as an internal medicine resident at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Nwamba is focused on understanding how technological considerations are influenced by diverse regulatory frameworks and the sustainable service architecture designs that support them. His ultimate goal: "To redefine the health care experience."

Looking to the future, Nwamba is excited to collaborate with U-M alumni to build out the remaining medical infrastructure for Africa and beyond. "With the right minds, a strong cultural understanding, and work ethic, anything is possible."

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