Key Stanford Medical Researcher Joins Apple’s Health Team

Apple has hired the lead doctor of Stanford University's digital health initiative, Sumbul Desai, to take on an unspecified role in one of the tech company's health projects. The hire was rumored earlier this month, but Stanford Medicine confirmed it to Internet Health Management on Friday.

Desai headed up Stanford's Center for Digital Health, launched by the university's School of Medicine in January 2017. The center's mission is to enhance Stanford's digital health initiatives by collaborating with technology companies and undertaking clinical research and education. The center also helped develop MyHeart Counts, a cardiovascular disease app built using ResearchKit in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

Desai worked at Stanford since 2008, beginning as a resident physician of internal medicine, before holding numerous roles including: Medical director of strategic innovations, assistant chief of strategy, clinical associate professor, associate chief medical officer of strategy and innovation, vice chair of strategy and innovation, and chief for the Center of Digital Health.

Apple has not revealed what role Desai will play at the company, whether she might join the team working on ResearchKit, HealthKit, and CareKit, or if she will work on an unrelated project. Apple has made several healthcare-related hires in recent years. In September it recruited Dr Mike Evans, a staff physician from St Michaels Hospital in Toronto and an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto. Two months later the company also hired Dr Ricky Bloomfield, who was director of mobile technology and strategy at Duke University Health System.

Apple has also hired Stanford doctor Rajiv Kumar, who has experience using HealthKit to help patients with diabetes, and Dr Stephen Friend, who helped build the data infrastructure for many ResearchKit apps.

Apple has kept quiet regarding what kind of products its health team is working on, but the company is known to be investigating advanced medical monitoring features, possibly for a future Apple Watch. The company is said to be working on implementing a new glucose monitoring feature and interchangeable smart bands, for example, while Apple CEO Tim Cook was allegedly spotted testing a prototype glucose monitor connected to his Apple Watch last month.


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