App developed by high school students could help make veterans healthier

Clinical Trial Selector
Photo credit Photo courtesy of Ethan Ocasio

A group of high school students from Fairfax County, Virginia have developed a new app that’s designed to give veterans and those on Medicare and Medicaid easier access to clinical trials.

Three high school students, Ethan Ocasio, Neeyanth Kopparapu and Shreeja Kikkisetti worked together for about six months to create the Clinical Trial Selector.

“Its purpose is to be able to let veterans find clinical trials that they are eligible for, clinical trials that they might not have known about it,” Ocasio explained.

Dr. Gil Alterovitz, the director of AI for the VA, said the app will increase access to clinical trials that are meaningful to veterans.

“In terms of accessing clinical trials, that’s one of the priority areas for VA research,” he said.

Nine million veterans could potentially benefit from the app, as well as 50 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, according to Alterovitz.

Clinical Trial Selector

The trio started developing the app after connecting with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ artificial intelligence team and joined the VA Health AI Tech Sprint.

“The main issue is many patients are actually eligible and willing to participate in research trials but aren’t aware of them,” said Kikkisetti. “On the other side, researchers are actively looking for patients that meet their research criteria to join their trials, but can’t find them.”

The students won honorable mentions from the National Artificial Intelligence Institute during a recent demonstration day and are now working on making the app available to the public.

Ocasio said the app will be accessible through a patient’s VA or Medicare account. You’ll simply have to sign in and then click on clinical trials, he said.

The students take part in the Girls Computing League, a nonprofit student group that aims to empower underrepresented groups in the technology workplace by fostering the interests of young people in computer science, data science, and technology. It is led by students for students. 

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