Carnegie Mellon University
September 13, 2019

INTERSECT@CMU Conference Returns with Focus on Health Care

Faculty and alumni from across Carnegie Mellon join industry experts to explore interdisciplinary approaches to health care innovations.

The second annual INTERSECT@CMU highlighted health care innovation, including advances in technology, care and delivery, pricing, and policy design. This conference, which took place at the Tepper Quad on Friday, Sept. 13, brought together industry leaders and academic innovators including Carnegie Mellon University faculty and alumni to discuss the future of health care. 

“At Carnegie Mellon we want to solve the big problems in society,” said Alan Scheller-Wolf, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Richard M. Cyert Professor of Operations Management, and co-chair of INTERSECT@CMU. “These will require innovation, broad collaboration, and cooperation to solve which is truly the hallmark of the academic culture at CMU. That is really what this conference is all about.” 

Tepper Associate Deans Alan Scheller-Wolf and Sevin YeltekinAlan Scheller-Wolf, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Richard M. Cyert Professor of Operations Management, and co-chair of INTERSECT@CMU, and Sevin Yeltekin, Senior Associate Dean of Education, Professor of Economics, and co-chair of INTERSECT@CMU

“As we plan each year’s INTERSECT@CMU theme, it’s a chance for us to demonstrate Carnegie Mellon’s unique culture of collaboration,” said Sevin Yeltekin, Senior Associate Dean of Education, Professor of Economics, and co-chair of INTERSECT@CMU. “This year, in addition to members of the Tepper School community, the conference programming included the relevant work of faculty and graduates from the School of Computer Science, College of Engineering, Heinz School, College of Fine Arts, and Mellon College of Science.”

Event Sponsors: Apprio Inc. and ApprioHealth

This year, INTERSECT@CMU is presented by Apprio Inc., a health technology company founded by Tepper School of Business alumnus Darryl Britt (MSIA 1990), and ApprioHealth, a business unit of Apprio that aids hospitals and health systems to manage their revenue cycles. Among Apprio’s clients are the U.S. departments of Health, Defense, and Homeland Security, and some of its earliest work involved streamlining federal disaster relief functions. “It’s an honor to be able to support this innovative conference,” Britt said. “I am pleased to have another opportunity to support the Tepper School and Carnegie Mellon in their mission to foster cutting-edge research that significantly impacts our society.”

Additional sponsors include Optum, UPMC Enterprises — led by Tal Heppenstall (MSIA 1985), President of UPMC Enterprises, Executive Vice President and Treasurer of UPMC, and Jeanne Cunicelli (DC 1988, CMU Trustee), Executive Vice President at UPMC Enterprises — and Liftoff PGH.

Keynote Speaker: Steve Downs

The conference this year kicked off with a keynote address from Steve Downs, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest health philanthropy in the U.S. Through the foundation, Downs leads and advises programs focused on health information technologies with the aim of improving health care, including Project HealthDesign, the Health e-Technologies Initiative, and Connecting for Health. Steve’s remarks, “It’s Time To Build Health Into the OS,” explored how emerging technologies, among other factors, will help reengineer a culture of health. 

“We need to take a product that’s not about health and make it so that health is a goal.”

“We’ve been changing our environment at a rate that is much faster than our species can evolve,” Downs said, noting that our society is shifting to keep us indoors and make us more sedentary, which has increased Americans’ levels of obesity and other chronic health issues. He believes that “we need to take a product that’s not about health and make it so that health is a goal.”

Steve Downs giving keynote speech at INTERSECT@CMU
Steve Downs, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and INTERSECT@CMU keynote speaker

He sees services like meal kit deliveries, technologies like electric bikes, and mobile games like Pokémon Go as opportunities to change behaviors to promote individual health. “We don’t yet know how these and other technologies are going to combine to form the new normal of our everyday lives,” he said. But he does encourage that we all “embrace health as a core value.”

Panel Discussions: AI, Policy, and the Future of Health Care

Each of the three panels brought a variety of experts in academia and industry to discuss current challenges and trends in a focused area of innovation.

Artificial Intelligence and Health Care explored how AI can impact delivery and the patient experience, including significant developments in machine learning and data analytics. Moderated by Madhu Pawar (HNZ 2005), Global Managing Director, Sales and Analytics Solutions at Google, the panel featured Chris Johnson, President of Teletracking Inc.; Paul Nielsen, Vice President of Strategic Programs at President UHG Academy of Technology and Dean of Optum College of AI; Shivdev Rao (DC 2002), CEO and Co-Founder of; and Roni Rosenfeld, Head of the Machine Learning Department in the School of Computer Science.

Artificial Intelligence and Health Care Panel at Intersect
Artificial Intelligence and Health Care panel

Moderated by Kristen Kurland, Teaching Professor Architecture, Information Systems, and Public Policy at the Heinz College, the second panel — Science or Science Fiction — looked at how science and the arts are shaping the future of medicine and health. Panelists Jeanne Cunicelli; Steve Downs; Keith Elliot Cook, Professor and Associate Department Head for Graduate Education in Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering; and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, Director of the Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute and Professor in the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, reflected on creative innovations that have inspired real-world advancements in health care.

Science or Science Fiction PanelScience or Science Fiction panel

Focused on the significant issues in costs, pricing, and policy design in health care, the final panel of the day — The $3.68 Trillion Question — featured panelists Thomas Pellathy, Executive Vice President of Product and Healthcare Services at Highmark Inc.; Rumi Naik (S 2002, CS 2013), Associate Vice President of Research and Development in Scientific and Digital Innovation at Sanofi Pasteur; Amelia Haviland, Associate Professor of Statistics and Health Policy at the Heinz College; and Sridhar Tayur, Ford Distinguished Research Chair, University Professor of Operations Management at the Tepper School. Moderated by Martin Gaynor, E.J. Barone University Professor of Economics and Health Policy, and by courtesy, Tepper School of Business, the panel tackled the difficult balance of providers, payers, and patients in forming policies surrounding the enormous health care industry.

$3.68 Trillion Question Panel
The $3.68 Trillion Question panel

Last year’s inaugural INTERSECT@CMU — which featured cutting-edge topics such as blockchain, the internet of things, and AI — was a significant part of the Grand Opening of the David A. Tepper Quadrangle, the new home of the Tepper School and a campus hub for innovation across academic disciplines. Planning has already begun on the 2020 INTERSECT@CMU, to be announced in the spring.

“This conference represents the core collaborative strength of Carnegie Mellon University, as we bring together renowned business leaders and entrepreneurs to work with our innovative students and researchers on important issues facing the world today,” Provost James H. Garrett Jr. said. “I am grateful to all of the panelists and attendees for their efforts to take part in this opportunity, to share ideas with each other, and to develop partnerships that can lead to discovery and solutions.”