Faces of UMSI: Ann Duong

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in the Economics of Health and Development from the University of Michigan, Ann Duong worked as an IT Consultant in Washington D.C. and Global Health Corps Fellow in Ruli, Rwanda.

Then she returned to her home state and alma mater as an MHI student. “I came back to school because I wanted to understand how to better leverage technology and design to enhance healthcare outcomes. For me, the Health Informatics program was great because I was able to learn about policy, theory, behavior change, and get the more technical aspects of how to program and conduct user research, which was wonderful.” 

Design Clinic, where Ann was team lead, taught her how to “work with a client and bring something to life that extends beyond that semester or class… having real experience working with a healthcare system in the U.S. was eye opening.” 

Innovation in Action, a team-based social entrepreneurship program through Michigan Public Health, showed her how to “merge what I learned in class with entrepreneurship.” Alongside teammates Brandon Keelean and Elisabeth Michel, Ann created Canopy, a web based application that helps people make end-of-life healthcare decisions and share those decisions with their loved ones and medical providers. The app is comprised of technical and non-technical questions ranging from whether or not someone wants CPR or where they want to spend their last days, to asking about their favorite song. Ultimately, these questions help people clarify their end-of-life healthcare wishes. 

“The legal document for this information is called an advanced directive. From the research we’ve seen, only 37% of Americans have one, and that’s even less for minority populations.” 

In some cases, people tell their next of kin what to do in case of emergency. “A lot of the time, this conversation happens informally, which becomes problematic, especially if you’re talking with multiple people…having your wishes written down is important. If people write down their wishes, this often happens in a lawyer’s office, and isn’t shared with family members or transferred to a medical provider.” 

Ann stressed that “these conversations might happen too late, or might happen when the individuals who need to be involved aren’t there.” Ultimately, “Canopy helps families better prepare today for tomorrow. The hope is that people will have these conversations earlier rather than later, so they can make the best decisions for themselves.”

Canopy won the Grand Prize and Audience Choice Awards of Innovation in Action’s public health track, Student Graduate Grand Prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, and second place in the Michigan Business Competition Siegle Social Impact Track. 

Canopy is in the early stages of product development with the help of the UMSI Design Clinic, student teams across the University of Michigan, and an external development team. “Being at Michigan is really nice because there are so many skillsets, and people to work with and learn from. That helped Canopy become what it is, and hopefully, will further enhance where it is going.” 

When she’s not in class or developing Canopy, Ann works as a Strategic Advisor for The Ihangane Project, a nonprofit healthcare organization addressing health challenges in Rwanda.

Over winter break, she traveled to Costa Rica and learned to surf. She plans on running a half-marathon in the spring. Also on the agenda? In April, Ann’s business will pilot their tool, and she’ll receive her MHI. After graduation, she hopes to spend time in East Africa or Vietnam.

Posted February 26, 2018