Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Sheila Wang

Dermatology resident building new technologies to transform patient care

Even before starting medical school, Dr. Sheila Wang had already begun her career as an innovator. With a PhD in chemistry from the University of Toronto (U of T), she headed to the University of Oxford on a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship. There, Dr. Wang patented and built a new technology to screen for drugs and was eager to bring her creative vision for changing care to the bedside. Soon after, she started medical school at U of T.

“When I went into medical school, I wanted to improve upon what I saw and make a difference in patient care.”

It didn’t take long for Dr. Wang to make her mark. In her first year of medical school, during a wound clinic, she observed that chronic wounds were being measured with a paper ruler, leading to widely varied results among clinicians. Dr. Wang set out to improve the process.

“I knew we could build something computer-based, digitized, some kind of technology that could calculate this reliably from person to person — at the same time I didn’t want it to be huge and bulky.”

Dr. Wang developed a mobile app to take images of wounds, automatically calculating the surface area and depth. The software then tracks the wound’s progression and healing. Her innovation won “most practical app” at Hacking Health Toronto and in 2015 led her to co-found Swift Medical, a digital wound care company. The Swift Skin and Wound app has been adopted by more than 1,000 health care facilities in the United States and Canada, contributing to a 75% reduction in bed sores.

Commercial success aside, Dr. Wang says she’s most proud of how her technology is changing patient behaviour.

“When you show patients their wounds with the app, and can say ‘Look, it’s getting smaller,’ suddenly people are very motivated and willing to follow their treatment plan.”

Now a third-year dermatology resident at McGill University, Dr. Wang is doing a pilot project with McGill TeleHealth to integrate her technology and improve access to wound care in northern communities like James Bay.

For Dr. Wang, it’s exciting to see the various elements of her resume — research, innovation and patient care — come together in a holistic way.

“This has been one of the first times I’ve been able to implement a change, build something, have people use it and then see a real difference. To have that complete process has been an unbelievable experience.”

Dr. Sheila Wang is receiving the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident) for demonstrating exemplary dedication, commitment and leadership in one of the following areas: political, clinical, educational, or research and community service.