Celebrating Women in Medicine and Pathology Informatics 2024! 
Meet Dr. Uttara Joshi

Brought to you by PI Summit 2024's "Women's Networking Event" Co-Sponsor AIRA Matrix

Uttara heads initiatives for business development with respect to key partnerships and product strategies at AIRA Matrix. Uttara is a medical doctor with a specialization in pathology. She has more than 15 years of experience in regulated settings for the diagnostics industry, with an emphasis on surgical pathology. Her expertise in Digital Pathology includes spearheading the development of an integrated digital solution for pathology, encompassing image acquisition hardware, image management systems, and AI-based image analysis software. At AIRA Matrix, her experiences in healthcare and technology provide leadership for the full scale of Artificial Intelligence based solutions offered for the Life Sciences industry.

I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Joshi for API’s celebration of Women in Medicine for the month of March for her contribution to pathology and pathology informatics. API is grateful for AIRA Matrix’ generous co-support of the Women’s Networking Nightcap for PI Summit 2024 on Tuesday, May 21st, 8:00 - 9:30 pm in Conference Room D.  This is a great opportunity for women in the field to come together!

GRACE: Hello Dr. Joshi, thank you for taking the time to speak with me, today. As you know, March honors Women in Medicine in the United States (with International Women’s Day on March 8th) and we are excited to feature you as this year’s honoree. Can you tell me what drew you to pathology?

UTTARA: Hello Grace, it is a pleasure speaking with you! A pathologist can seldom make diagnoses by simply peering at the glass slide (now image!) in a vacuum. To provide a histopathological diagnosis it is imperative that the pathologist pick up on clues from the patient’s past and family history, signs, symptoms, clinical, laboratory, and radiological findings, correlate these with the histomorphological findings, put all the pieces of the puzzle together and render a final diagnosis. This places the pathologist in the unique position of being privy to the holistic picture of the patient. Though it demands significant attention to detail, the satisfaction of providing the patient with a definitive diagnosis that effectively guides the future course of therapy is immensely gratifying. These aspects of Pathology have been a major draw for me right from my undergrad days.

GRACE: I would love to learn about your experience as a woman physician in India - what are some of the challenges you have faced in the field?  Did you find mentors?  How did they support you?

UTTARA: To be honest, I have not faced many challenges as a “woman” physician in India. One reason for this could be that there have been enough competent women physicians in India over the last few decades who have proven their mettle. Thanks to this, women physicians are treated at par with their male counterparts today in urban India. It could also be because pathology is a non-surgical branch with fixed working hours and rare emergencies (except unplanned frozen sections) that allow for a good work-life balance. This has traditionally translated to more women pathologists in India. Having said that I would like to underline the crucial role that mentors have played in my life. I was fortunate to have been taken under the wing by amazing women and men. The work ethic, integrity, attention to detail, and the curiosity and commitment needed to take a task to its logical end, have all been inculcated in me by these mentors in the field of pathology. This has held me in good stead on the Pathology Informatics side as well.

GRACE: Can you describe your journey into the industry side of pathology informatics?  How did you become involved in AIRA Matrix and why?

UTTARA: After earning my master’s degree in Surgical Pathology I worked for close to 15 years on the clinical diagnostics side. While working in diagnostics two things always troubled me –

1)    The subjective nature of Surgical Pathology (and Medicine at large). It left me with an acute realization in multiple instances that Surgical Pathology was a subjective science, open to different interpretations heavily dependent on the expertise, experience, and exposure of the reporting pathologist.

2)    The second thing that bothered me was the vast amount of data in the histopathology slides that remained untapped.

Digital Pathology seemed to provide some answers. Hence when I was offered a role where I could apply my domain knowledge in the development of Digital Pathology solutions, I took this leap of faith. I began by working on whole slide scanners and image management systems. The natural extension of this was the foray into the exciting field of Pathology Informatics and Artificial Intelligence applications in the Cancer Care Pathway.

GRACE: You are an accomplished surgical pathologist, researcher, and spokesperson for AIRA Matrix. With your level of global visibility, how do you see your new role for women just entering the field of pathology informatics?  As you know, this subspecialty is still relatively new and has a low level of female representation.  What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to enter the field?

UTTARA: The low level of female representation in this subspecialty reflects the larger global picture in STEM. The reasons for this are myriad. The gap begins with the skewed representation of women in STEM studies. Men vastly outnumber women studying and eventually working in STEM fields. And the gap is broadest in computer sciences and engineering. Multiple other related downstream factors like gender stereotyping, workplace culture, the predominance of men in leadership roles, and the demand on women to maintain a work-life balance, help widen this gap. This is a deep-rooted, multi-faceted problem that does not have a simple solution. What is encouraging though is that organizations are now emphasizing equity and inclusion. And I am glad to be working with one such equal-opportunity employer. Highlighting the achievements of women in leadership roles in STEM would also help the cause by making visible role models that women in this field can aspire to.

GRACE: For medical institutions, in general, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing pathology and implementation strategies today and how do you envision solutions to move past them?

UTTARA: In recent times, Pathology services have faced significant budget cuts. Though technologies like Digitization and Pathology Informatics could help cut down costs, it is tough to prove an initial return on investment in these technologies. There is hence a need to implement innovative technologies that have demonstrable financial and healthcare benefits to the patient, the provider, and the payor. Artificial Intelligence solutions that help pathology labs cut down on turnaround time and resources are one example. AI-based prognostic/predictive solutions that glean untapped information from existing routine tissue preparations, and reduce the spend on complex, expertise-heavy technology like genomic tests, could prove to be a game changer. Another example is AI-based solutions that analyze multi-modality data and predict the course of disease and response to therapy, directly affecting clinical outcomes and healthcare expenditure. Solutions like these could help organizations build a strong business case for Digital Pathology and AI, and effectively combat tighter budgets. 

GRACE: Dr. Joshi, thank you so much for taking the time to share your personal and professional story. You have a very important role in the promotion of new technologies to improve patient care across the world and we are glad you have been able to share your story with us.

While Dr. Joshi is unable to join us at PI Summit 2024 as she will be engaged in another speaking commitment, please visit the AIRA Matrix at PI Summit 2024 in Ann Arbor, MI. 

Meet Robert Adams at Booth #12 and Marco Comianos in the Exhibitor Hall at
PI Summit 2024 in Ann Arbor, MI at Eagle Crest Resort to Learn More!