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Student Spotlight: The Power of a Selfie

Winners of Microsoft Imagine Cup 2014 share how a selfie can diagnose aenemia.

Hi, everyone! Anyone who’s worked with Millenials probably knows about their affinity for selfies. Turn the camera towards yourself, snap a picture, and admire. But who knew that it could be life-saving?

Anaemia is a silent killer, affecting over two billion people worldwide — including 293 million children. The red blood cell deficiency, which accounts for an astounding 20 percent of all maternal deaths, can be difficult to detect – especially where access to healthcare is limited. But thinks to the Eyenaemia app, diagnosing this threat is as simple as taking a selfie.

Eyenaemia is the winning 2014 Imagine Cup project and app, developed by Jennifer Tang and Jarrel Seah, two medical students from Australia. “Every single day in the hospital, we look at ways that we can actually improve things,” says Tang. “We just think, OK, we want to find any possible way that we can solve this problem.”

And they did just that. Eyenaemia is an elegantly simple, non-invasive and easily accessible screening tool for anaemia that anyone with a mobile device can use. The app analyzes the conjunctiva, the thin membrane coating the eye, and calculates the risk of anaemia, putting years of medical training into the hands of untrained users. In early trials, the app achieved 95 percent accuracy.

Team Eyenaemia were crowned Imagine Cup World Champions by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, beating teams from 34 other countries. In fact, they also won the World Citizenship category before going on to beat the other category winners to be named World Champions.

“What we really want to do is bring this to the developing world,” says Seah. “When we first conceived of this idea, we thought of it as a way to improve access to healthcare for disadvantaged areas.”

It’s that notion – using technology to solve a real issue in a practical way – that defines the Imagine Cup competition. “We both feel very strongly…that technology does have the potential to make huge impacts in the future,” says Tang. “Right from the beginning we could see our solution working in low-resource environments…and that’s really where the idea came from in the first place.”

Here, Seah and Tang show us how Eyenaemia works, and share not only their journey developing their award-winning app, but also their thoughts on how educators today can impact and inspire their own students.


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