Mercy was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa and growing up she became increasingly aware of the subpar health system and associated high mortality rates which affected her family and friends. Frustrated, she was determined to be the change she wished to see and become a doctor in order to help save lives. After completing senior high school in Holy Child Secondary school in Ghana, she was accepted into the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T) medical school. However, fate had other plans for her. That same year she was selected as part of the top 10 students in her high school to apply for the Zawadi African Education Fund, a program designed to provide full scholarships to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in Africa to pursue higher education in the U.S.A. Through this she received a full tuition and expenses paid scholarship to the University of Rochester, NY.
When she started college at the University of Rochester in the Fall of 2010, she was initially interested in majoring in Biomedical Engineering for pre-med requirements. Through her classes and being exposed to the breadth and impact of biomedical engineering, she soon came to realize that the lack of effective healthcare technologies really affected healthcare delivery to bridge health disparities. This motivated her to seek education in developing tools to improve health care; she felt that as a doctor she could only impact the people she came into contact with; but by learning to develop healthcare innovations, she could create a nationwide and potentially global impact.
She actively involved herself in various research opportunities, conducting research in labs in University of Rochester, University of Melbourne, Australia, and Mayo Clinic. Her research internship at the Mayo Clinic introduced her to a world of opportunity in using imaging technologies for cancer diagnostics and their potential utility as non-invasive, low-cost methods for implementation in resource-limited settings.
The challenge of accessible tools for cervical cancer screening in low-resource settings came to her attention when she was exploring different areas in which to pursue her PhD research and came across Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam’s Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies. She was startled by the disparities that exist with incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer between high-income and lower-income regions of the world, especially because this is an imminently preventable disease. She was even more surprised at large disparities in cervical cancer mortality within the United States, a high-income country, due to lack of access to health care. This tied in perfectly with her passion to develop technologies to address health disparities. At GWHT, Mercy developed the Callascope; which is a novel, speculum-free, colposcopy device to image the cervix for
pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions with potential for self-cervical cancer screening. She also developed image processing and machine learning algorithms that use a combination of contrast mediators to provide automated risk assessment of those cervix images during cervical cancer screening. As part of her interdisciplinary research, she attained a certificate in global health and a global health doctoral fellowship. This gave her the opportunity to conduct clinical studies and sociological studies, in Durham (North Carolina), Lima (Peru) and Accra (Ghana). She also actively took part in two Bass Connections projects, developing a global value chain for the pocket colposcope and conducting stakeholder interviews and training in Lima, Peru. For her work on the Callascope and algorithms, Mercy has published peer-reviewed manuscripts in Plos One, and IEEE TMBE, and currently has a manuscript in progress for submission to the Lancet. Additionally, Mercy has received several awards including: Women Leaders in Global Health Conference Scholar (2017), Women in Machine Learning Conference Travel Award (2017), Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Award (2018), International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Education Award (2018), MKS Instruments Research Excellence Travel Award (2018), CUGH/Wasserheit Young Leader in Global Health Award (2018), VentureWell Eteam Grant (2018), Duke Health Innovation Jam Shark Tank Winner (2018), Lemelson-MIT Graduate Student “Cure it” Winner (2019), CISCO GPS Challenge 2nd runner up (2019).
Mercy recently defended her PhD thesis and will be continuing on to work as a post-doctoral research fellow through a $100,000 Schmidt Science Fellowship award. She will be carrying out her post-doc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, supervised by Dr. Regina Barzilay, where she will be working on using convolutional neural networks to improve prediction for cancer risk using electronic health records and medical imaging. Long-term, Mercy plans on using the skills she gains to create a medical research and innovation hub in Ghana, working with interdisciplinary teams and collaborators worldwide to develop user-centered technological innovations for sustainable change.
Mercy visiting the Battor Clinic in Ghana, during her Global Health Doctoral fieldwor
Mercy presenting her research on developing algorithms for automated cervical cancer screening at the SPIE Photonics West conference
Mercy in Lima, Peru with mid-wife and Duke undergraduate students, during a Bass connections program to training health providers on use of the Pocket Colposcope
Mercy accepting the Schmidt Science Post-doctoral Fellowship, with Eric and Wendy Schmidt