YANA Houston Evening Tea: A Conversation About Addressing Challenges in Global Healthcare with Innovation & Technology

Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy ’93 and Dr. Elizabeth Chiao MPH ’93 emphasize the importance of multi-party, preventative approach to addressing global healthcare matters.

September 24, 2019


Healthcare is local, global, and even galactic! That was one of the messages attendees learned at the YANA Houston Tea held at Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center on the evening of Tuesday, September 24th. 


Dr. Elizabeth Chiao MPH ‘93 led her colleague and friend, Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy ‘93, through a discussion of why global health is important, what some of the major challenges are today and likely in the future, and some of the ways she and Baylor Global Health and others are addressing the challenges.  

Public health is often a local matter, though the speakers noted there are some diseases and medical issues that are best addressed trans-nationally. With some input from the audience, the group listed issues that pertain to gender (like maternal health), zika, increased cases of cholera and gastro-intestinal diseases from warming oceans, psychiatric disorders from wars and terrorism, skin cancer from decreased ozone layer protection, and the unfortunate side of the spread of Western lifestyle, like obesity and heart and lung disease from human behavior relating to what people eat, drink, and inhale. Together with the globalization of the world and increased travel by individuals, there is also more opportunity for microbes and viruses to travel across borders so that a few local cases can quickly become a pandemic.  Still, the leading global health issues are not headline-grabbing outbreaks of ebola, but rather chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, for which it is challenging to draw public attention and fundraise.

Dr. Anandasabapathy told several stories about how technology without careful research and education becomes useless.  She showed images of technology graveyards, filled with thousands of dollars of donated and sometimes even broken medical equipment that sat in rooms in small villages in Africa because the local recipients had neither the resources to fix the equipment nor the proper training to use it effectively.  Yet a small investment in solar panels at a medical clinic generated enough power for the community to purchase and use washing machines and dryers so they could change and properly sterilize patient bedding, thereby significantly reducing the rates of re-infections.

From this locally-sensitive perspective, Dr. Anandasabapathy and her team focus on preventive vs reactive healthcare.  They seek to train and then put training and education into the hands of local practitioners and their patients, in ways that work best for them. Fortunately, in many countries around the world, technology has leapfrogged over basic infrastructure such that there are whole communities of patients and medical care providers eager to learn and adapt new technologies, often way before their U.S. counterparts.  Small, mobile, medical screening devices are much more effective in regions without reliable sources of electricity or transportation.

Following a Q&A session, attendees we were treated to private tours of one of the SmartPod prototypes, designed to be locally and culturally sensitive to patients who have different concepts of comfort and privacy than what may be the experience in Western hospitals. The Pod is now serving as the prototype for NASA’s remote medical care project on Mars! Click HERE for a virtual tour inside!  

Click HERE for more information about Baylor Global Health and its many programs and projects.


Dr. Anandasabapathy, an advanced gastrointestinal endoscopist by training, conducts research involving the development and validation of novel technologies for diagnosing early gastrointestinal cancer. She is a Professor of Medicine in Gastroenterology and Director of Baylor Global Initiatives and the Baylor Global Innovation Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. In her current role, she oversees Baylor’s global programs and affiliations. Full Bio.

Dr. Chiao is an expert in the study of the epidemiology, prevention and treatment of non-AIDS defining cancers.  She is a Professor of Medicine-Infectious Disease at Baylor College of Medicine, and the principal investigator of the Baylor site for the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded consortium.  Full Bio.

* * *

Baylor Global Health conducts research to produce new insights, new diagnostic approaches and new treatments that have a direct effect on the health of people around the world. Baylor faculty, staff and trainees strive to make meaningful and innovative contributions in the transformation of global health through education, training, research, capacity building, and patient care.