Dr. Ramya Palacholla: Designing Tumor Response Forecasting Model in Breast Cancer and Treating Military Sexual Trauma

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Ramya Palacholla

BOSTON–Ramya Palacholla, a physician and one of the Lead Scientists at Partners Healthcare Pivot Labs, works with a multidisciplinary team that develops and executes digital health strategy and research projects in collaboration with top pharmaceutical, research and technology companies.

“I am passionate about improving access to quality equitable care, promoting wellness, preventing diseases and limiting the complications of chronic diseases,”says Dr. Palacholla, who is passionate about her research focused on validation of health technology solutions for improving patient lives.

Dr. Palacholla has presented her research on innovative technologies on international platforms such as the World Economic Forum, World Healthcare Congress, American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and the VOICE Summit among others as a thought leader in the field of health technology research and innovation.

Dr. Palacholla’s idea on an “Innovative Tumor Response Forecasting Model in Breast Cancer Patients” was awarded the first position in the Harvard Ideation Challenge among hundreds of submissions received from across the country. Furthermore, the idea was also selected as one of the top six finalists for the Boston Scientific and Google Connected Patient Challenge in 2018. She has also written about treatment method for the management of Military Sexual Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among war veterans.

Here is a Q/A with Dr. Palacholla:

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Ramya Palacholla: I currently work at Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs with a group of extremely talented and passionate individuals who are working towards transformation of health care and inspire me to do better. Touching the lives of many patients through my research and work is one of the biggest driving factors for pursuing a career in health technology research. Technological developments in healthcare have saved countless lives and improved the quality of life for even more. Technology can play an unparalleled role in making health care safer, more efficient, and more coordinated. This area of research keeps me on my toes because you encounter a different problem to solve every day.

Ramya Sita Palacholla

I am passionate about improving access to quality equitable care, promoting wellness, preventing diseases and limiting the complications of chronic diseases. Further, helping patients and healthcare providers unlock the potential of new and emerging technologies has led to outstanding results and I have really enjoyed being an advocate on health care transformation through digital health technology. I have received awards and accolades for this work that I am truly grateful for.

Teaching and mentoring students as a part of my academic responsibilities has been something that’s really close to my heart. I have had the opportunity to work with some brilliant students and help them with their research and these students have taught me so much in return. If people remember me as a good teacher or mentor, it will be a great honor for me.

INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

RP: I have been an Official Champion for the Red Cross for a few years now and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to take part in fund raising activities. Fundraising for Red Cross ensures adequate resources are available for families devastated by emergencies big and small, every single day.

Sathya Sai Vidhya Mandir for the underprivileged children in Hyderabad, India, Home for Little Wanderers in Boston and Animal Rescue League in Boston are other organizations that I support. I am fortunate to be able to support these organizations that tirelessly towards providing services to children and animals who need them the most.

I am also a member of the American Public Health Association, a Washington, D.C.-based professional organization for public health professionals in the United States. It has been a great avenue for me to meet other researchers who are passionately working towards helping patients in different ways. I always enjoy being a part of their Annual Conference and Expo which is a great stage to share your research.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

RP: I love learning about various dance styles and performing when I have a chance. Hiphop, Bollywood, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Salsa are some of the styles I am trained in and have enjoyed teaching them as well to kids. Gardening, hiking in national parks and reading are other activities I enjoy.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community or your company/organization and professional field?

RP: Working with the most vulnerable populations has been the most fulfilling experience in my professional life, whether it was the underprivileged patients seeking care in the government hospitals in India or patients suffering from sexual trauma and harassment. I had the opportunity to work with mentors who have guided me as I worked with these populations. My research on sexual abuse and trauma resulted in the publication of a book that describes the complex circumstances of victims of sexual abuse in the military and how clinicians can meet the unique challenges of treating these patients. Sexual trauma leads to devastating, life-long consequences to careers, health, relationships, and psychological wellbeing and working with this group of patients has been very rewarding.

INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?

RP: Women have made great progress in all fields today. However, gender bias is one of the most significant issues that women still face. It may be subtler now than it was a few years ago but it makes an appearance in all parts of society, from education and workplace to the media and politics.

Currently, only 6% percent of all CEOs are women and only about 49 countries worldwide have female representation in their government- it’s less about the statistics but what I do want to highlight is that there are many factors that contribute to these statistics and gender bias is definitely one of them. The most important thing for women to do is to support other women who are struggling. No one else is going to fix this issue, it needs to start with us (women).

INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?

RP: I was a part of my school and college debate teams and represented these debate teams in national competitions. I have really enjoyed speaking on platforms such as the World HealthCare Congress and the VOICE Summit among others. I found that once I am onstage, I am myself, and there’s no fear.

INE: What are your favorite books?

RP: I love reading biographies and World War II novels based on real life stories. My favorite book is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

INE: What are your favorite quotes that motivate you or make you smile?

RP: Quotes by powerhouses such as Maya Angelou, Malala Yousufzai and Michelle Obama have had a profound impact on me. Some memorable quotes are:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” –Maya Angelou

“There’s no magic to achievement, it is about hard work, choices and persistence.” — Michelle Obama

INE: Who inspires you the most?

RP: I am fortunate to have a family that has always been my biggest source of inspiration. I learnt from my father, the ability to not only work hard to achieve your dreams but also to be there for your family at the end of the day. My mother inspired me to give my best to the task at hand whether it was at school, college, work, sports, or dancing. She is the reason I have been able to wear many hats in my life. My husband has taught me so much about relationships and he is never threatened by a woman’s success, a trait that I admire the most about him. My sister has taught me to not worry about seeking approval from others and do what makes me happy which I think is a great coping skill to have in today’s world.

INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?

RP: I would love to meet Melinda Gates. She is the definition of a role model for me. Her experience in a male-dominated workplace in her early years inspired her to encourage more women in the field. She not only worked tirelessly towards diversity and empowerment of women but also lead efforts to address basic human needs in the most deprived communities around the world. She has shown the world how much a woman can do, she is truly a trail blazer.

INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?

RP:

–           Family is the most important anchor in life and always comes first.

–           A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

–           We should be the change we wish to see in the world.

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