This month we spent five minutes with Dr. Ashnil Kumar. Ashnil is a Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Engineering; we asked Ashnil about his work and what digital health means to him.
Can you please tell us about a day in your life?
I have just started a new role in the new School of Biomedical Engineering and so my typical day is still shifting and evolving. I spend most of my time at the Westmead campus. A typical day there involves meeting with clinical staff and researchers to work on joint projects, or to initiate new ones when there are areas where biomedical engineering can help; I want to establish partnerships so we can better tackle research questions together. I am also here to provide mentoring/supervision for engineering students who are working at Westmead. At the moment, a large portion of my time is being taken up with preparing for a unit of study that will be conducted entirely at Westmead – there will be around 150 senior engineering students who are looking to work on developing technology solutions to help address clinical problems.
I am also part of the ARC Training Centre for Innovative BioEngineering where I provide mentorship, supervision, and support to postdoctoral staff and student. I am a member of the Imaging and Diagnostics theme of the Centre, and work on research on new computerised techniques to analyse medical image data. I also take part in Centre management, and work with Centre industry partners.
In addition to this, depending on deadlines I might work on research projects or papers, review for journals and conferences, prepare grant applications, or give feedback to my students on their papers and theses.
How do you define digital health?
I think digital health is the convergence of healthcare with digital technology – computers, sensors, new digital devices, the internet – that can be used to provide health services that may not be feasible in a traditional setting, e.g., continuous monitoring at home.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
I think what is critical for success is having a holistic approach that incorporates the technology that is being developed or used, the context of its use, and the users of the technology. I think it is important to get buy-in from users (and other non-user stakeholders), particularly when a new innovative approach is being pursued. It’s always possible that everyone has a different idea of where the project needs to be, so it’s important to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The context of when and how something is to be used (whether in a clinical setting, or at home, or on the go) is essential for designing the digital health solution in a manner that supports the use case.
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
Ethics applications and approvals always take quite a while. I found out early in my career that often it can be tricky to explain in these ethics applications how a piece of digital health technology will operate, especially if it is something brand new and innovative. For an engineer, it pays to be able to explain your technology solution in the context of the ethical concerns.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about?
Get in touch with Ashnil
The University of Sydney: https://sydney.edu.au/engineering/people/ashnil.kumar.php
A very big thank you to Ashnil for being our July member feature!