App-solutely Inspiring: Nevon Song, ’23, Is Creating a Bridge of Aid to East Africa

Roughly a year ago, a team of six medical students from Albany Medical College, co-led by Nevon Song, ’23, along with John Moon, ’20, Arun Chocklingham, ’20, Sara Silberstein, ’22, Peter Inglis, ’21, Sam Fordyce, ’21, and mentor Gary Siskin, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology, faced off against a team from Yale School of Medicine. They were finalists in a competition hosted by the Society for Interventional Radiology (SIR) that challenged teams from medical schools across the country to come up with an innovative solution to a problem in global health.

Not only did Song and his team walk away with first prize for their idea—a medical-supply-tracking app designed specifically for use in hospitals and clinics with limited resources—they also started fielding phone calls almost immediately.

Physicians and panelists from the competition reached out. So did global humanitarian organizations like RAD-AID International. Everyone wanted to know the same thing: what would it take to put their idea into action?

“All of this coincided with the rise of Covid-19,” Song said.

“It was clear to us, from the research we did, that these limited-resource sites in countries like Tanzania were being hard hit. Many were tracking their equipment supplies by hand. They would get overwhelmed, running into preventable shortages of equipment at the worst possible times.”

If all of this was happening on normal, business-as-usual days, Song wondered, what would happen during the pandemic?

The question inspired him to make a bold decision. “I decided to build the app out for real,” he said.

In May, Song started working with Road2IR, a global outreach organization with medical faculty and clinicians at institutions across North America, Tanzania and Rwanda. Over the summer, he began recruiting programmers, ultimately creating a team of more than 20 people across the U.S., all while balancing the demands of medical school. “A lot of the work was done in the witching hours,” he said.

This spring, the app, Carebase, will be released on Google Play where health care centers around the world will be able to download it. Carebase was launched to be piloted at the first ever accredited Interventional Radiology training program in Tanzania in September, and plans are now afoot to bring the app to Rwanda, Uganda and sites around the world.

Meanwhile, Song, in collaboration with Road2IR, is also creating a pipeline of donated and low-cost supplies from U.S. and Canadian hospitals and manufacturers that can benefit the limited-resource communities they are serving. The app helps track these items by scanning equipment labels, and Song and his team provide insights on what supplies are needed and how to optimally source them across their supply chain. Supplies are distributed to volunteers who ship and transport them.

Song said he has always been drawn to problem solving and service in medicine. Born in Albany, he is the son of two physicians—his mom is a hospitalist at Saratoga Hospital; his dad is currently doing research for the Department of Health at the Wadsworth Center—so he gets his talents honestly.

And while his primary focus is “training to be the best physician I can be,” he said, he will continue to keep pace with the app as well as his schoolwork. “There’s a real sense of community around what we are all trying to build together here,” he said. “It’s exciting.”