Deputy Chief of Mission Abigail Rupp at the Hacking Health Hackathon

Deputy Chief of Mission Abigail Rupp (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)
Deputy Chief of Mission Abigail Rupp (center right) speaks at the opening of the Hacking Health Hackathon. Bucharest, June 8, 2019 (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)

Good morning.

It is a pleasure to be here representing the U.S. Mission to Romania and be part of this event for the third year in a row.  I think going on what Cristian said, I want to talk a little bit more about collaboration, about we can do together, which is why you all are here.  And it is why we have a mission to Romania – collaboration.  Because without that, without partners we can’t get things done.  From our partners in Romania, the Romanian Presidency has been a very strong partner in promoting health priorities, things like anti-smoking awareness, tuberculosis, women’s health; it is one of the partners that we are proud to be working with.

I am also really happy to see the structure of this competition, this hackathon that is also including mentorship, because we all sitting up here are thinking of mentors we had and people who supported us and gave us the extra bit of collaboration that we needed to move forward.

I also have a couple of examples of other health hackathons that really highlight that importance of collaboration and mentorship.  So, one happened in New York City in 2018 called the Grand Hack, the world’s largest healthcare hackathon.  A small startup called “canAiry” with university students from Carnegie Mellon University won first place with an idea to leverage artificial intelligence for lung cancer detection, using AI to diagnose respiratory diseases by listening to coughs.  There is a bit of planned words in English if we are talking about technology that listens to the coughs and we are at a “hackathon” but that is all right, that is somewhat interesting.

There is another hackathon that Johnson and Johnson sponsored at Cornell University; the winning team created an app that enables real-time stroke detection through language recognition and facial recognition.  So again, technology we already have is used to create a healthier world.  These are some examples of where we can bring our focus when we work together.

Here in Romania there are still many challenges to face.  Romanian healthcare spending is only 25% of [the] EU average – there is a long way to go.  So that means resources, efficiency, and technology.  Romania has a reputation for a good reason, being a leader in technology and innovation.  This is an opportunity here today to make an investment that would save lives.

We also work with you and partners in Romania to move forward when we can.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago our embassy had the seventh annual International Women of Courage ceremony, where we recognize Romanian women who have contributed to the development of this country.  We honored Carmen Uscatu and Oana Gheorghiu who, through their NGO Daruieste Viata, raised more than 26 million euros to plan and build a pediatric oncology hospital and created an online fundraising platform, allowing donors to track their donations, and they raised more than 36 million Euros as part of that process.  So again, the connection of people and technology and collaboration is what we really hope to encourage.

We have something else coming up at the end of the month, called the Women Entrepreneurship: Access to Finance European Roadshow, because the piece we haven’t talked about much so far is money.  And, the other part of innovating is finding a way to fund these innovations and having partners like we have here today can make a really big difference.  So our embassy is going to work with some partners including the European Young Innovators Forum and our Mission to the European Union to have workshops and forums to help women entrepreneurs learning how to work with venture capitalists and other investors to [get] these ideas off the ground.  So the application deadline is still pending – you have few more days, June 12 is the last day to apply – to be part of this Women Entrepreneurship European Roadshow.  You can find us on social media to find out more about those possibilities.

The last thing I want to mention is that fundraising and mentorship is important and so is risk.  So, this hackathon is a great opportunity for you to think about where you can take a risk, where you can not just be creative, but risk trying something very new.  This is that space to do it in, and I look forward to hearing the pitches, and what comes out of this event.  I wish you great success.  Thank you!