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Above and Beyond: Summer with the HHS Civic Digital Fellows

Time flies when you’re having fun, and this summer flew by with the 2019 Civic Digital Fellows!

Time flies when you’re having fun, and this summer flew by with the 2019 Civic Digital Fellows! Ten weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) welcomed our summer cohort of Civic Digital Fellows. Now, it’s hard to believe their summer with us is coming to a close.

Before the fellows return to university, Coding It Forward will showcase their government projects and contributions at a Demo Day in Washington DC on August 8th. Demo Day will highlight how 55 fellows across various federal agencies helped to improve our government through technology, innovation, and design thinking.

HHS and the Office of the CTO are thankful for the energy and creativity that Civic Digital Fellows brought to our office. Ed Simcox, HHS CTO, expressed his gratitude by saying, “The fellows who joined us this summer truly went above and beyond expectations. In a few short weeks, they jumped right in and learned as much as they could about what we do and how we work. They provided tangible solutions to problems and creative insights. I look forward to working with other fellows in the future.”

Fellows at HHS worked across a broad spectrum of projects. Reflecting on their fellowship experiences, all five fellows expressed surprise about how pockets of innovation exist across government. What they saw exceeded their expectations with government technology and innovation. The HHS Civic Digital Fellows describe their projects and experience below:

Alex Curtis
Originally from Seattle, WA
M.S. class of 2019
New York University Tandon School of Engineering

One of Alex’s projects used natural language processing (NLP) ― a type of artificial intelligence (AI) ― to semi-automate written public comments that HHS receives in order to improve government responsiveness to citizens and save taxpayer dollars. Alex applied AI and NLP technology to evaluate written public comments submitted to the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, and he quickly recognized the broad applicability of such technologies. Alex scoped how these emerging technologies might improve customer experience with government through technology, for example, by scaling AI and NLP through the 10x program at the U.S. General Services Administration.

Aditya Krishnaswamy
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Undergraduate class of 2020
University of Georgia, Athens, GA

This summer, Aditya supported the HHS ReImagine Data Initiative and HealthData.gov. Through his work in the Office of the CTO, he has gained critical insights into the workings of the federal government and has improved in his ability to communicate complicated, technical ideas. In the future, he hopes to continue to work in data and health, recognizing the importance of data and technology as strategic assets in understanding and improving the nation’s health.

Trisha Prabhu
Originally from Naperville, IL
Undergraduate class of 2022
Harvard College, Cambridge, MA

Trisha contributed to the KidneyX initiative to accelerate kidney care, performing a scientific and technical review of existing medical devices and developments in the kidney space, and laying the groundwork for future KidneyX prize competitions via briefing materials and prototypes. Trisha also contributed the Lyme Innovation initiative to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-borne diseases. Trisha’s work with Lyme Innovation helped to strengthen collaborations between OCTO and the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Specifically, she helped to develop an acute Lyme disease use-case for the “All Hazards” clinical decision-support software, as scoped at the 2018 Lyme Innovation Roundtable. Looking to the future, Trisha hopes to apply the skills she’s learned – hacking the bureaucracy, collaborative innovation, and risk-taking – to other projects focused on harnessing technology for the power of good.

Ronak Shah
Originally from San Diego, CA
Undergraduate class of 2022
University of California San Diego

During the fellowship, Ronak worked across three teams at HHS. Within the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), Ronak assisted in the analysis of Software Asset Management and cataloging source code for the CIO. He also provided technical consulting and solutions while at the Office of the CTO, assisting the internal Ignite Accelerator teams at HHS. Additionally, Ronak worked as a software developer for the United States Digital Service (USDS) team at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The USDS CMS work focused on Blue Button 2.0 and the Data at the Point Care pilot, which gives healthcare providers insight into their patients’ medication history and adherence. As a result of this fellowship, Ronak was able to gain valuable skills in inter-agency communication and collaboration.

Jay Sheth
Originally from Cross Lanes, WV
Undergraduate class of 2021
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Jay culminated his summer working on a variety of projects with several different teams including the Office of the CIO, Office of the CTO, CMS, and USDS. From data analysis and technical consulting to user research and development interviews, the experience provided a comprehensive take on how technology and government work together to solve pressing problems. The process of taking high-level, complex problems and breaking them down into targeted solution plans is a skill that he can apply anywhere.

With undergraduate and graduate problem-solvers like these fellows, our future is bright. It was our privilege to host the next generation of technology leaders at HHS. The Office of the CTO welcomes future collaborations with Coding It Forward and their Civic Digital Fellowship program.

We wish this 2019 class of Coding It Forward fellows all the best in their future endeavors. No doubt, they will do amazing things in their promising careers ahead! #CivicTechService

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