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Innovation on a clean slate – Sidra Medicine’s story

by Sean Ruck , Contributing Editor
When Dr. Avez Rizvi was accepted into an informatics fellowship at UPenn to follow the four years of work he had undertaken at Northwell Health (formerly known as Staten Island University Hospital), he had a life-changing epiphany. “I was debating pursuing another fellowship or going headfirst into a job,” he recalled. His mentor, Dr. David Hirschorn advised him he may not necessarily pick up a significant amount of new information in the fellowship, but it might serve to bolster his résumé credentials for future jobs in the field.” So weighing the options, Rizvi was drawn to an opportunity that opened in Qatar. “I wrote an impassioned letter to the then head of radiology, Dr. Deepak Kaura, and one thing led to another and I was offered a job,” he said.

He assumed the role of head of Advanced Applications in for the Center for Medical Innovation, Software and Technology at Sidra Medicine located in Qatar in July 2014, and was promoted to division chief in 2017. The lessons learned likely surpass anything a fellowship could offer.

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“When I first started, the hospital wasn’t yet open. They were at a grassroots effort trying to create the entire imaging informatics pipeline for the upcoming department of radiology, so I was put in charge of doing that. Part of my job was also to help create the center for medical innovation that Dr. Kaura wanted me to head,” Rizvi said.

After the radiology department opened, his work shifted toward building the center for medical innovation, software and technology. Along with Dr. Kaura and with the full support of the CEO of the hospital, Peter Morris, Rizvi and the CMIST team helped implement a platform called “Imagine”, which is a crowdsourcing concept that allows for frontline staff to submit ideas for greater innovation. “They don’t need to be software, they can be workflow, ideas based on experience, anything,” he said.

Sidra Medicine brought people in from around the globe to explore best practices and to figure out which pieces of the puzzle would fit to create the optimal environment for innovation and successful healthcare delivery. That mix of ideas wasn’t without its challenges Rizvi said, “People bring their notions of what a hospital should be with them, getting all those people together to focus on the vision and mission of this place is challenging, but it’s a good kind of challenge. You learn new ways of doing things that maybe you didn’t think of. Working through that was helpful, but it took some time to get used to.”

Through all the input from those different sources, Sidra Medicine was able to get a “best of breed” building from the ground up, rather than having the struggle of overcoming the factions pushing back about how they’ve always done things a certain way.
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