Interview with Christopher Spirito

BY OLIVIA SPIRITO; EDITED BY BERNICE BORN

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ealthMAP was designed and developed by WiRED International Board Member Christopher Spirito. His daughter, WiRED Staff Writer Olivia Spirito, talked with Chris to find out how he started working with WiRED and what his vision is for this new program.

 

OS: What is your background?

 

CS: I grew up in Springfield, New Jersey, with two teachers as parents and one younger sister. Having two educators as parents encouraged me to learn about whatever interested me. Our house was full of textbooks, and my favorite was an anatomy book that I was obsessed with in fourth grade. I would read the book on anatomy and memorize the names of each bone in the human body. My father was involved with Union County Parks and Recreation during the weekends and summers, and he would take me with him to help out during field trips for the developmentally disabled. We would take groups to ride horses and play pitch and putt golf. It was such a rewarding experience.

 

OS: When did you become involved in medicine?

 

CS: When I was 14 years old, I began volunteering at Overlook Hospital, my local hospital, and I ended up with a part-time job there when I turned 16. I was hired as an arterial blood-gas technician in the Respiratory Therapy Department. Then, just a year later, I completed training as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I worked as an EMT in New Jersey and Massachusetts for 12 years. Clinical health care has always been a very important part of my life.

 

OS: How did the volunteer work as a teenager shape you as a person and lead to your work at WiRED?

 

"I am especially interested in the idea of being able to offer good health programs to disadvantaged populations without robust healthcare systems or not enough physicians, medications and treatments available. My ambition felt like a natural fit to WiRED’s mission in the healthcare community."

CS: My volunteer work at the hospital started with three hours every Sunday afternoon in the Admissions Department and soon expanded to afternoons and evenings. I created a service in the hospital whereby if any of the medical units needed help delivering lab samples or picking up supplies, they could page me and I would take care of their requests. I spent most of my summers volunteering, which ended up totaling over 2,000 hours by the time I graduated from high school. These experiences led me to believe in the mission of providing excellent health care to everyone around the world. I am especially interested in the idea of being able to offer good health programs to disadvantaged populations without robust healthcare systems or not enough physicians, medications and treatments available. My ambition felt like a natural fit to WiRED’s mission in the healthcare community.

 

OS: How did you get involved in WiRED?

 

CS: In 2007, back when I was working at the MITRE Corporation, I found out about a WiRED global health project that was trying to bring medical education software to community hospitals in Iraq. After reading their proposal, I reached out to Director Gary Selnow to ask him if he could use any help with this project. I have a background in both computer information systems and health care, so Gary thought it would be a good idea for me to join the project. The two of us together created the Iraq-Telemedicine Network, which was designed to take the medical information centers in Iraq that WiRED had already built and expand them into 20 different community hospitals within Iraq. That was my first experience with WiRED.

 

OS: What is the program you just built for WiRED?

 

CS: WiRED creates healthcare modules to allow physicians, clinicians and healthcare professionals in underserved parts of the world to be able to learn about diseases, treatments and different interventions. One of the challenges we have had is to be able to share all these health education modules with the communities WiRED serves around the world. In the past, Gary has traveled to these different locations, including Kenya, Uganda, Armenia and Peru, to show communities how to set up WiRED health education modules on their computers.

 

"HealthMAP also allows clincians to create a portable library on a USB memory stick. Once this memory stick is loaded with the information, clinicians can share it with doctors and field clinics that may not have a download opportunity. Using HealthMAP is a very easy process."

Our goal with HealthMAP is to allow clinicians in these areas to upload the information themselves to connect with WiRED’s server. This will allow them to use the modules offline. That’s pretty important for so many of our target populations where the Internet is available only occasionally. This new program runs on the Windows and Macintosh systems to sync to our server and view our entire e-library of available modules. Users can then select the modules that they are most interested in, and, with the click of a button, download them automatically. By connecting to WiRED’s server, clinicians can find updates to these modules to better educate their communities with the most current information. HealthMAP also allows clincians to create a portable library on a USB memory stick. Once this memory stick is loaded with the information, clinicians can share it with doctors and field clinics that may not have a download opportunity. Using HealthMAP is a very easy process.

 

OS: How is HealthMAP different from other WiRED programs built in the past?

 

CS: WiRED has not had many technical products in the past, other than the educational modules themselves. While doing extensive research, we did not find a program that gave us what we were trying to accomplish, so building our own program from scratch was ultimately the best solution. HealthMAP is a tremendous step for WiRED.

 

OS: What does it mean to you knowing this application can potentially help clinicians save more lives than before?

 

CS: This program can have so many positive outcomes for the medical communities in low-resource areas of the world. We at WiRED are very excited about the idea that HealthMAP can help so many people. We plan to measure the impact of HealthMAP over the next several weeks after its release. The results will allow us to see if there are any modifications or changes we should make to offer the best product possible.

 

Biography

 

Chris graduated from The Pingry School in 1989 before attending Northeastern University, Rutgers University and Boston College where he earned a BA in Mathematics in 1993. He attended graduate school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and studied biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Chris’s wife Jennifer is a graduate of Boston College and Boston University where she earned a BA in Psychology and an MSW in Clinical Social Work. In her private practice she specializes in working with adolescent girls and addresses women’s issues. The Spiritos have two daughters, Olivia and Meghan, who are 16 and 13 years old respectively. Olivia is a junior in high school, who runs varsity cross-country and track and also volunteers as a staff writer for WiRED. Meghan is in eighth grade and enjoys playing year-round basketball.

 

 

 

 

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