Varesh Prasad, an MIT graduate student in health sciences and technology, is creating a multidisciplinary future in health care.Video and photo by Lillie Paquette; Written by Meg Murphy
“Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” The cry by Leonard “Bones” McCoy of the original "Star Trek" television series became code for “that’s not in my job description.” A prognosticator of many future technologies and social issues, the show’s portrayal of professional roles remained stubbornly one-dimensional — although one might forgive the ship’s doctor for not being a bricklayer, coal miner, or torpedo technician.
Varesh Prasad seems to have no such limiting factors. He majored in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST). He is studying electrical engineering at the Research Laboratory of Electronics, mathematical modeling and health informatics at the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), and just finished an anatomy class at Harvard Medical School.
“I have found willing collaborators around every corner,” Prasad says. “It’s all about what can you do, what’s your idea, not what’s your degree. I’m looking at how to use high-resolution physiological signals and other patient data to improve outcomes in major surgeries and critical care specifically and to enhance clinical care overall,” he adds. “You can think of it as taking a data-driven approach to medicine — optimizing a human rather than a mechanical or computational system.”