Speaker Bios

Keynote Speakers

Pamela Peele

Pamela Peele, PhD
Chief Analytics Officer
UPMC Insurance Services Division and UPMC Enterprises

Pamela Peele is the chief analytics officer at UPMC Insurance Services Division and UPMC Enterprises. Peele brings 13 years of direct patient care experience along with 12 years of academic research experience to her position as a leader of health care analytics at UPMC. She is responsible for creating innovative analytics that drive financial and clinical performance including economic modeling, predictive modeling, statistical analysis and machine learning. Prior to joining the UPMC in 2006, Peele was the vice-chair of the Department of Health Policy & Management at the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health. She currently holds faculty appointments in the Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. She is core faculty at the Center for Research on Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and an elected fellow of the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis on Organizations in Montreal, Canada. She has numerous published articles and book chapters. She was the first person chosen by IBM as an IBM Big Data Hero and was voted the 2014 IT News Men & Women of the Year as a top innovator in health care analytics. Peele has a BA in economics from Roanoke College in Salem, VA, and an MA and a PhD in economics from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

Philip ResnikPhilip Resnik, PhD
Professor of Linguistics
University of Maryland

Philip Resnik is a professor at the University of Maryland in the Department of Linguistics and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. He earned his bachelor's in computer science at Harvard and his PhD in computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania and does research in computational linguistics. Prior to joining UMD, he was an associate scientist at BBN, a graduate summer intern at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center (subsequently awarded an IBM Graduate Fellowship) while at UPenn, and a research scientist at Sun Microsystems Laboratories. Resnik's most recent research focus has been in computational social science, with an emphasis on connecting the signal available in people's language use with underlying mental state — this has applications in computational political science, particularly in connection with ideology and framing, and in mental health, focusing on the ways that linguistic behavior may help to identify and monitor depression, suicidality, and schizophrenia. Outside his academic research, Resnik has been a technical co-founder of CodeRyte (NLP for electronic health records, acquired by 3M in 2012), and is an advisor to Converseon (social strategy and analytics), FiscalNote (machine learning and analytics for government relations), and SoloSegment (web site search and content optimization).  

Featured Speakers

Athena AbbottAthena Abbott
Advisor, CVS Health Digital
Mentor, Healthbox

Athena Abbott is a digital innovation strategy advisor at CVS Health. In this role, she leads teams focused on digital product and process innovation spanning several CVS Health businesses including Caremark, SilverScript, and Omnicare. Abbott served as a management consultant with Accenture for more than 10 years and has more recently focused on digital innovation strategy. In addition to leading product and process innovation efforts at CVS Health, she is a digital health start-up mentor at Healthbox, a HIMSS innovation company. In this role, she advises founders on growth strategies, market positioning, patient engagement and acquisition, and shares industry knowledge. Abbott earned her MBA in strategy and marketing from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, and her bachelor’s degree in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. She serves on the Friends of the Sheridan Libraries advisory council at Johns Hopkins.

Ray Christian

Ray Christian
Founder and CEO

Ray Christian is founder and CEO of Textpert where they are leading the convergence of A.I. and mental health. The company's technology, AiME, is utilized on clinical trials at UCLA and their recent findings have been published in an APA journal. Christian has been featured on Mashable, Sirius XM, PC Mag, Huffington Post, BuiltInLA, SoCalTech.com and served as co-host of an LA-based radio show about interpersonal relationships. Christian has spoken at numerous events: Singularity University: Exponential Medicine, Health 2.0, Innovation at the American Psychological Association, Technology of Silicon Beach, UCLA Anderson Tech Showcase, StartupUCLA and others.

Sanji FernandoSanji Fernando
Senior Vice President

Sanji Fernando is a senior vice president at Optum. He leads the artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics platforms team for Optum Enterprise Analytics (OEA). He is responsible for OptumIQ Studio, a new platform that supports the design and development of Optum’s most sophisticated AI models and analytic tools. Previously, Fernando was a vice president at OptumLabs and headed the Center for Applied Data Science (CADS). The CADS applied breakthroughs in AI to products and services from UnitedHealth Group (UHG). Specifically, CADS created UHG’s first deep learning model deployed in a commercial product, Optum360 Case Advisor. CADS also created Natural Networks, a graph analytics tools for provider network design, and Optum Community Health, a machine learning tool to analyze the impact of social determinants on healthcare outcomes and costs. Fernando joined UnitedHealth Group in 2014 from Nokia, where he created the first data science team for Nokia. His team was responsible for launching the first big data computing cluster at Nokia to analyze user activity and engagement and design new product concepts from the insights generated from this cluster. Before that, Fernando spent nine years at Nokia in a variety of corporate roles with Nokia’s advanced business development team, Nokia Research Center and Nokia Ventures. Prior to Nokia, Fernando was a co-founder and VP of engineering of a venture-backed mobile software company, Vettro. Fernando began his career in consulting with Viant and Accenture. Fernando is a graduate of Trinity College with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Michelle, and their three boys, Ben, Lucas and Axel. In his free time, Fernando enjoys coaching his sons in basketball and baseball. He also serves on the board of his local Little League.

Susan K. GregurickSusan K. Gregurick, PhD
Associate Director for Data Science 
Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS)
National Institutes of Health

Susan K. Gregurick was appointed associate director for data science and director of the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) at the National Institutes of Health on Sept. 16, 2019. Under Gregurick’s leadership, the ODSS leads the implementation of the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science through scientific, technical, and operational collaboration with the institutes, centers, and offices that comprise NIH. Gregurick was instrumental in the creation of the ODSS in 2018 and served as a senior advisor to the office until being named to her current position. Gregurick was previously the division director for biophysics, biomedical technology, and computational biosciences at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Prior to joining the NIH in 2013, Gregurick was a program director in the Office of Biological and Environmental Research at the Department of Energy. Before beginning a career of government service, Gregurick was a professor of computational chemistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research interests included dynamics of large biological macromolecules, and her areas of expertise are computational biology, high performance computing, neutron scattering and bioinformatics. Gregurick received her undergraduate degree in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Michigan and her PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Maryland.

Prithvi RaoPrithvi Rao
Executive Architect — Federal Healthcare

Prithvi Rao is an executive healthcare architect with IBM Federal CTO Strategy Office based in Maryland. In his professional IT career of over 28 years, he brings extensive technical, executive and consulting experience to the design, sales and services of IBM software. He has worked in various technical capacities and has architected, designed and implemented several enterprise-wide solutions using IBM cross-brand software for the media and entertainment industry and has provided technical leadership and consultation services to federal agencies across DoD, intel, and civilian. To address the many challenging needs of federal healthcare, he has now focused his attention on the federal healthcare industry and has promoted and build mindshare for IBM healthcare point of view and industry solution capabilities across health and human services, military health systems and veteran affairs. As a pre-sales technical architect, he works closely with healthcare executives, technical and sales team to understand their business requirements and to transform that vision into viable technical offerings with IBM cross-brand integrated software solutions and research assets.

Nawar SharaNawar Shara, PhD
Director, MedStar Health Research Institute
Associate Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University
Director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design, Georgetown-Howard Universities Clinical and Translational Science Center

Nawar Shara is the director of MHRI’s Department of Biostatistics and Biomedical Informatics, associate professor of medicine at Georgetown and the director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) core for the Georgetown-Howard Universities Clinical and Translational Science Center (GHUCCTS). Shara’s research focus includes big data solutions, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data visualization, predictive analytics, adaptive designs and optimization schemes in clinical trials. She is a member of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society, the American Society of Nephrology, the Women in Statistics Caucus, ASA Scientific and Public Affairs Advisory Committee. She is the president of the DC Chapter of the National Arab American Medical Association, as well as the chair of the Science and Research Committee for NAAMA. Shara has served as a peer reviewer for the following journals: Diabetes, American Journal of Cardiology and Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives and has authored over 50 peer-reviewed journal publications. Shara serves as principal investigator of several NIH-funded studies, National Kidney Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her earlier work aimed at examining correlates of kidney and cardiovascular disease including oxidative stress and surrogates of kidney function. She is currently the principal investigator of an NIH NCATS supplements looking to leverage voice-activated technology and visual animation (Avatars) to help patients with heart failure to better manage their disease. Shara conducts, supports and oversees clinical and translational research across MedStar hospitals and is involved in teaching and education at Georgetown she is also the course director for many offerings at Georgetown University.