This Ugandan Uses Artificial Intelligence To Fight Cancer After Surviving The Disease

by Duke Magazine

Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa is a cancer survivor and founder of Chil AI. Her firm uses artificial intelligence-guided e-oncology services and drones to transport cervical cancer specimens from remote rural villages to laboratories.

Kaliisa was diagnosed with cancer in her second year in medical school. Growing up in rural Uganda, the main economic activity her family engaged in was fish farming. Smoking the fish exposed her to respiratory diseases which also contributed to her cancer chances.

She told Business Insider that she decided that she was not going to allow other young women to go through the pain of living with breast cancer because they can’t have early and regular screening. In Africa, breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases among African women with a five-year survival rate of 40%.

This led Kaliisa to found Community Dental and Reproductive Health Ltd. The firm offered affordable mobile cancer screening to women in rural Uganda and mobile dental services to school children in Uganda.

Her services received wide patronage among the locals. Soon Kaliisa wanted to add new technologies (AI guided Tele-Oncology). She also decided to change the name of her firm from Community Dental and Reproductive Health Ltd to Community Healthcare AI Center. Unbeknown to her, the name she settled on had been registered by someone else and so she came up with the name ‘CHIL AI LAB”, with CHIL meaning “Community Healthcare Innovation Lab.”

Today, what started as a healthcare center solely focused in rural Uganda has ended being an African-focused firm that is providing services to more than 700,000 women in over 10 countries in Africa, including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the pandemic.

Chil AI offers services ranging from AI-guided consultation, Automated Referral, Automated Radiology Reports, Interpretation laboratory to Automated Drug Ordering. “All these can be accessed through our conversational chatbot accessible on various mediums,” she told Business Insider.

“We are aware that the disabled have been left out so many times when it comes to access to Tele-Health. In this regard, our chatbot allows those with seeing and writing disabilities to have access and navigate our services using voice prompts. This is only done by us in Africa,” she added.

As with all entrepreneurs, Kaliisa told the Business Insider that lack of funding is a major challenge she faced. “This limited my scalability rate with the services in the various communities, as I had limited funding to supplement the revenue I get from selling these services,” she said.

“I was among the first people on the continent to bring AI in offering Tele-Oncology services. This came with too much opposition from the senior oncologists, who saw it as an enemy rather than enhancing their work. It’s unfortunate that we still have many people who believe that women, especially in Africa, can’t do anything related to technology,” she added.

In recognition of her impeccable commitment to fight the terminal disease, the 25-year-old Ugandan was recently featured on Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst list. She was featured among 31 people charting the global course out of the pandemic and toward a brighter, more sustainable future.

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