I have known Khan for over 20 years now. At AKU, we shared an ethnic background and the same home town of Hyderabad. It gave us an opportunity to develop a natural friendship which has grown over the years. What escaped me however, was his explosive growth in informatics and software development over the last 15 years. This growth has allowed him to move from a clinical faculty position in Radiology to the President/CTO of a multimillion dollar healthcare startup. Higi.com is perched at the interface of healthcare and social media. We thought he would make a wonderful addition to our growing roster of featured alumni at AKUAANA.org.
Faisal G. Qureshi
AKU Alumni Association of North America
Give me a quick summary of what you do exactly?
My full-time job is that of an entrepreneur, building software startups. Currently, I am the President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a healthcare technology startup in Chicago called Higi. I joined Higi as the founding CEO and board member in 2012. Higi is a healthcare technology company that empowers and motivates people to actively engage with their health. It does so by bringing basic vital screening to the masses with a self-service health kiosk and aggregating fitness data from wearable devices and tracking apps. Higi then incentivizes and motivates consumers to live a healthy lifestyle through its challenge and rewards program. As Higi’s CTO, I am responsible for all research, product development and strategy for the company.
Additionally, I am also co-director, Center for Biomedical Imaging and Informatics, and Visiting Associate Professor at The Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology & Radiological Science, Johns Hopkins University. I am the current Chair of the IT and Informatics Committee and member of the Commission for Research and Informatics for the American College of Radiology. In this role, I am involved with multiple boards for various technology companies in the US. I am also advisor for Chicago Health 2.0 and MATTER Chicago (a health tech incubator in Chicago).
Before joining Higi, I was Physician Executive and Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, responsible for engineering execution in the Health Solutions Group for cloud health products as well as personal health records. One of my key achievements at Microsoft was stimulating computer vision research that allowed Xbox Kinect to recognize human anatomy in video frames.
I am a Radiologist by training. Before Microsoft, I was at the University of Maryland Medical Center as Program Director for MRI and Radiology Informatics.
What aspects of your education at AKU helped you the most in deciding your future trajectory?
While at AKU, it never occurred to me that my career would lead me towards informatics, Health IT, software development nor that I would be building software startups. In hindsight, training in AKU helped develop a framework for critical thinking and problem solving and it provided key mentors who influenced the career trajectory I am at today.
What type of work do you do in Pakistan? With AKU?
In the past I have mentored AKU faculty and staff interested in health IT and cardiac imaging by sponsoring them as fellows at University of Maryland in Baltimore. Currently, I am an advisor for the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN) in Chicago and advise Pakistani entrepreneurs on various aspects of growth of their startups as it relates to technology and healthcare. I also advise the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan and Pakistani Embassy on issues related to healthcare technology. On a regular basis, I have Pakistani entrepreneurs reach out to me for advice regarding anything from funding to technology architecture, to market penetration in US or global markets.
What advice would you give medical students in choosing a career in healthcare IT?
My advice would be for not just those who want to pursue a career in healthcare IT but for all in healthcare. At the heart of it, clinical care is Informatics i.e., information science. We collect data, filter it into information and transform information into knowledge every day. For example, imagine a patient’s blood pressure is 100/50. That’s data. Suppose that patient has a ten-year history of blood pressures of 150/100. That’s information. Suppose that the patient has a known history of coronary artery disease and is now experiencing chest pain. The sudden drop in blood pressure could indicate a serious myocardial infarction in progress. That’s knowledge. Taking IT tools to collect data, extract information from it and transform it into knowledge is Informatics.
As physicians, we need to change the way we think about healthcare. In the current healthcare landscape, every facet of clinical practice involves health IT and informatics. This is true for both developed and emerging markets. The next big phase in healthcare revolution is dependent on biosensors and big data analytics driving clinical decision. Some level of knowledge of health IT and understanding of its application in clinical practice is extremely important for the future of healthcare. It is important for healthcare practitioners of the future to be able to communicate with their technology partners to implement or create effective tools. Disease surveillance, treatment adherence, clinical decision support, contextual delivery of knowledge at point of care all require understanding of informatics and health IT.
Success in academics is often associated with publications. You seem to have developed a good mechanism to continuously publish. Is there a secret?
Curiosity! Always ask questions and figure out how things work and why? My research has evolved in a spiral – i.e., one paper leads to more questions, which leads to more research and hence more publications and on and on. Whatever I have done in my career has been tied somewhere to something in the past. For example – exercise physiology modeling work that I did with Dr. H.R. Ahmad (Professor of Physiology) at AKU in the 1990s ended up leading to my understanding of how we can estimate calorie consumption during game play with Xbox Kinect at Microsoft. As I mentioned earlier, one of the key technologies I worked on at Microsoft was to automatically recognize human anatomic structures in medical images. While we were doing this work, the Xbox team was trying to solve a similar problem of recognizing human anatomy in video frames for a project called Natal (now called Kinect). They ended up using the same techniques that we built for recognition of human anatomy during game play. As we continued to work with the Kinect team, one of the ideas we had was to be able to measure calorie consumption during game play (even for non-fitness games), by recognizing muscle movement, measuring work effort by each body part and converting that into calories burnt. We used the same techniques to measure O2 consumption and CO2 production during the development process that I used in the Physiology Lab at AKU during our exercise physiology experiments with Dr. H. R. Ahmad. For me, this was an example of how knowledge from one domain can be applied into a completely different domain to innovate and create amazing experiences.
If an AKU grad wanted to get involved with your work, what should they do? How do they prepare and how can they reach you?
First and foremost, keep an open mind. You never know where you start and what that will lead to. The key to success is to identify the problem you are trying to solve. AKU grads or students interested in exploring entrepreneurship or a career in clinical informatics can reach me at .
What personal traits do you think have helped you succeed?
Not sure I can pin point one myself. What others tell me is my ability to communicate across boundaries of domains and knowledge, help simplify the problem others are trying to solve. I do try to practice certain traits, although I will admit I’m not consistent. First, is to always be a student, look for self-improvement and learn new things. I think this habit is what has enabled me to succeed in a career in Technology. Second, not to be afraid of failure, but fail fast and move on. Third, surround yourself with smart people, if you don’t know something, ask those who may know. Lastly, be humble and listen to others – young or old. You never know who gives you the best idea, correct answer or solves your problem. All these things are great, but none of this would be possible without having a supporting spouse and family. I have been very lucky to have an amazing spouse (AKU alumnus Faaiza Mahmood, ’97), who has supported me to make some difficult decisions including leaving full time clinical medicine.
Editor’s Final Thoughts: Khan is being quite modest. He has always had a desire to learn new skills and not allow any barriers to diminish his craving to succeed. Khan is also a great teacher, an innovator and above all a great friend. There is nothing he would not do for his colleagues and his friends. I strongly recommend anyone from any background with an interest in Medical Informatics to reach out to him for advice and direction.
The AKUAANA team looks forward to Khan’s continued success and hopes that he continues to inspire us all.
The AKUAANA website features an AKU alumnus every quarter. We want profiles to highlight various aspects of alumni careers/lives – academic and research, clinical, private practice, political achievements, social activism, philanthropy etc.
Profiles of other alumni highlighted on the website over the time can be viewed under the “Featured Alumni” category.
In order to nominate someone or self-nominate, email your nomination and information by email to .