Joel Selanikio, MD Profile

  • CEO and co-founder of Magpi, Dr. Selanikio’s data collection software has been used by thousands of public health workers in over 170 countries to improve and save lives.

  • Dr. Selanikio is a former CDC epidemiologist, outbreak investigator, and field-tested physician who served as the lead physician at the IMC Ebola Treatment Center at Lunsar, Sierra Leone.

  • One of the most sought-out speakers on healthcare information technology, Dr. Selanikio has presented at TED, CDC, Google, MIT, National Institutes of Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, WHO and Yale, among others.
  • Pediatrician and former CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Joel Selanikio is one of the world’s foremost experts in health information technology, particularly its application within developing countries. As the CEO and co-founder of Magpi, a leading provider of mobile data collection tools, Selanikio has open-sourced much of Magpi’s software, capacitating tens of thousands of public health workers to autonomously address their regions’ health issues and needs.

    Prior to graduating medical school, Dr. Selanikio worked as a computer consultant on Wall Street. Early on in his career as a physician, he became a U.S. Public Health Service officer at the CDC where he primarily concentrated on outbreak response. During his tenure there he served as Chief of Operations for the HHS Secretary’s Emergency Command Center after the 9/11 attacks. He also used his technological background to create EpiSurveyor (now known as Magpi), a program that significantly streamlined the process of collecting and analyzing health data. EpiSurveyor gained Selanikio global recognition as well as the prestigious $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.

    In 2003, Rose Donna and Dr. Selanikio cofounded Magpi, originally under the name DataDyne. Thousands of users in over 170 countries have used Magpi to improve their field operations, including the World Bank, WHO, DARPA, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Chemonics, JSI, and many more.

    Additionally, Dr. Selanikio has completed various tours with the International Rescue Committee. He served in Indonesia after the 2005 tsunami, and from December 2014 to January 2015, was the lead physician at the IMC Ebola Treatment Center at Lunsar, Sierra Leone. He continues to practice medicine as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      A practicing physician, TED speaker, futurist and emergency responder, Joel Selanikio bridges the worlds of healthcare, global health and technology to illustrate opportunities in the application of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing, and mobile technology to health, healthcare, and social challenges. A former CDC outbreak investigator and Ebola clinic director, he also frequently speaks about the challenges of providing clinical services in “the hot zone”, and the role that technology (and humanity) can play in emergencies.

      A recognized innovator in global health, technology, and social enterprise, his broad career has allowed him to observe and leverage the great technological changes of our time – including the worldwide shift from personal computers to mobile, the adoption of cloud technologies, and the growing application of big data to healthcare – as few others have done. Named in 2009 as one of Forbes’ “most powerful innovators”, he is a recipient of both the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainable Innovation and the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award for Healthcare for his work in healthcare technology.

      A TED speaker, he has spoken at or provided consultation to organizations including the Royal Society of Medicine, Harvard, Stanford School of Business, DARPA, the World Economic Forum at Davos, and Google – and been profiled by the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Economist, CNN, Fox News, and the BBC, among others.

      Selanikio is a graduate of Haverford College and the Brown University School of Medicine, and he continues to practice pediatrics at Georgetown University.

    Joel Selanikio, MD Speaking Videos

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    Joel Selanikio, MD's Speech Descriptions

    Software company co-founder and former CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Joel Selanikio helps audiences unpack big data and what it means to the future of healthcare.
    His speeches combine public health, clinical medicine, and technology as he demonstrates how tools like mobile and AI are just starting to transform the patient/doctor relationship as well as the health of populations across the globe. Attendees will learn how they can be part of the coming changes and contribute to a world with more health and less healthcare.

    Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Health

    Dramatic changes in the capacity, size and distribution of technology has meant an unprecedented acceleration in the generation of electronic data in recent years. This includes traditional health data, but also nontraditional sources like smartphones, shopping data and more. More recently, machine learning and other artificial intelligence (AI) systems have been developed which can utilize these enormous amounts of data, seeking useful patterns.

    While the commercial sector has taken the lead in applying AI to big data, it’s clear that it will also be applied to both the traditional healthcare system as well as to health promotion outside that system. Dr. Joel Selanikio, a technologist and practicing physician, leads the audience from the definitions and origins of big data through examples of the first steps—and the larger promise—of applying AI in healthcare.

    Running the Hot Zone: From the Front Lines in the Fight Against Ebola

    A veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and an experienced emergency responder, Dr. Joel Selanikio took six weeks in the winter of 2014–2015 to run an Ebola Treatment Center in the heart of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, an experience shared with NPR listeners in the form of an audio diary.

    Unprepared for a “treatment center” largely without effective treatments, or for a patient death rate of more than 60%, Dr. Selanikio speaks of the daily and intimate patient contact, the personal fear and exhaustion, the co-workers risking their lives, and the dignity of patients facing near-certain death in this moving, up-close discussion of one of the deadliest infectious disease outbreaks in modern history.

    Collaboration in Science and Medicine

    Collaboration has been the key to the acceleration of progress in medicine as well as other branches of science. In this talk, Dr. Joel Selanikio discusses how a lack of collaborative capacity in years past set back scientific progress by decades. He discusses the requirements for increased collaboration — communication and prosperity — and shows how the steady advance of both these phenomena has led to increased collaboration first in the West, and now increasingly in other newly-prosperous and connected areas of the world — notably China.

    Finally, he points out the prospects for further advancements and further collaboration as the centuries-long rise in living standards, education, and more recently connectivity bring for the first time the possibility of truly worldwide collaboration.

    Disruption, the Consumerization of Tech, and Healthcare IT

    We are almost fifty years into a titanic shift in technology, from institution-centric to consumer-first. The effects of this change are now being felt in the healthcare IT space, as medical staff accustomed to Uber and iPhones push back against antiquated, unconnected EHR (electronic health record) systems.

    What’s the nature of this secular shift, how did it happen, and what does it mean for the future of health, and of healthcare IT? Dr. Selanikio will take the audience through more than fifty years of accelerating change, and explain why the biggest changes in health tech are yet to come.

    Innovation and Social Enterprise

    For nearly 15 years, Dr. Joel Selanikio has headed Magpi, a technology company creating affordable tools widely used within global health, the non-profit sector and international development. Often described as “like Gmail but for data collection,” Magpi was the first to apply the self-service principles of Gmail and Facebook, the “software-as-a-service” technology approach of Salesforce, the “freemium” pricing model of Skype, and other Silicon Valley technology and business models to the very different world of global health and international development.

    For anyone interested in social enterprise, or how technological innovation can be applied to solve social problems, Dr. Selanikio will guide you through a frank discussion of the challenges and pitfalls that can divert or derail, the technology approaches that let you “punch above your weight” and the achievements that result.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Joel Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Dr. Selanikio gave a fantastic TED-style talk on data-driven innovation in health at the 2018 HHS Opioid Symposium, bringing the audience through the history of tech through the latest developments in big data and AI, and tying it all together in a package that was entertaining and informative, and highly-rated by the audience.”
    — Dr. Mona Siddiqui, Chief Data Officer, Office of the Secretary, US Department of Health and Human Services

    “I strongly recommend Dr. Joel Selanikio as an extraordinary speaker. Bayer Portugal had Dr. Selanikio on two occasions in Portugal to speak about collaboration and its impact on society and science advances and on both talks he manage to capture the audience’s attention in a most entertaining, fresh and interesting way.”
    — Isabel Fonseca Santos, Medical Director, Bayer Portugal

    “He was just incredible from the beginning of our conversations, to the event presentation, to the post event engagement with the audience. A wonderful professional to deal with. I would engage Joel at the next opportunity I have.”
    — Ramon Vega, Senior Director, Biogen

    “I never felt more satisfaction in any decision than on the one to bring Joel onboard; he gave a fantastic talk to more than 1500, nearly the entire group of attendees.”
    — George Dodge, Director, Orthopedic Research Society

    “… one of the most engaging, thought-provoking, dynamic, and relevant speakers I have had the pleasure to watch. Relevant, entertaining and insightful …. when you watch him speak, you can immediately see the passion he has for the topic. He has a knack for connecting little-known facts with the topic at hand that leaves the audience in awe… The attendees continued talking about the concepts he presented for days after the event. He is hands-down one of the best keynote speakers I have watched in my career.”
    — Carlos Garmendia, Associate Director, Biogen

    “If you need inspiration, education and entertainment, Joel covers all three. He was a keynote speaker at the Irish Health Research Board conference on Big Data in Health, the opportunities and challenges ahead. He did not speak to our audience, he brought them on a journey. First we went back in time. This was to ground our understanding of how far we have come in the world of data, big data and AI. Through clever examples and recent research papers he demonstrated the growth and potential of big data and AI for health. If you asked anyone in our audience, they would say it was an incredible journey.”
    — Gillian Markey, Communications Manager, Health Research Board

    “Joel gave an outstanding presentation at our annual partners’ meeting in 2017, speaking to the top 200 leaders in our company. His vision of the impact technology will have on healthcare was compelling … I’d highly recommend Joel for anyone who is looking for a speaker that will present a compelling vision of the future of healthcare.”
    — John Bienko, Principal, ZS Associates

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