Innovator Spotlight: Jacob Jaremko

Kate Black

Apr. 22, 2021

U of A radiologist Jacob Jaremko is taking the 21st-century stethoscope worldwide.

Jacob Jaremko, a U of A radiologist, is taking the 21st-century stethoscope worldwide.

In 2018, Jacob co-founded MEDO, which develops software that can create 3D ultrasound images and, using artificial intelligence trained on thousands of previous cases, suggest diagnoses. With MEDO’s technology, a health-care provider can tell if a patient has pneumonia or a collapsed lung, for example, without sending them to a hospital’s radiology department. MEDO is a member of the U of A Health Hub and Accelerator.

We’re excited to introduce you to Jacob in this week’s Innovator Spotlight.

What’s one big problem you want to solve through your work?
Canada is a physically huge country with a spread-out population, where a lot of people have limited access to the best medical care. When you have to drive six hours in a snowstorm or fly from a northern village into the big city just to get an ultrasound, you will be pretty tempted to put that test off, even if your health is at risk. People who might be reluctant to go to the hospital for cultural or social reasons are just as isolated. I would like to bring expert medical imaging to everyone.

How do you describe your work to people who don’t work in your field?
Medical images like X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs look inside the body to find out what is wrong with sick patients — but they can be complicated to interpret. My goal is to make expert analysis of these images more easily available to the whole population with the help of computer technology. We are particularly excited about ultrasound, which uses handheld portable probes that can plug into smartphones. These probes can be kept at medical clinics or even travel in ambulances.

What does the word “innovation” mean to you?
Innovation means either approaching an old problem from a new angle or understanding a problem in a new way that leads to a solution. A lot of innovation results from “cross-pollination” — having people from different backgrounds look at a problem from a fresh point of view.

What’s been your biggest a-ha moment — in life or work — so far?
Perhaps my biggest revelation was that switching from my original career track (engineering to architecture) into medicine would actually work. I didn't even take biology classes in high school, but it felt right to apply what I had learned in engineering to the human body rather than to buildings and bridges.

How do you or your team come up with your best ideas?
I am most creative when I am in motion. If I'm stuck, I go for a run, for a bike ride or on a road trip. But the best innovation is not solitary — I think innovation happens when you put thoughtful people from different backgrounds together in a relaxing space or place and let them enjoy each other's ideas. Some of the most truly innovative meetings we have at MEDO have minimal agendas.

Do you have a role model at the U of A? How have they influenced you?
Rob Lambert, previous chair of the U of A’s radiology department. He is passionate about his research, loyal and truly supportive and understands that thinking deeply and from a fresh perspective about an issue is more important than rushing a response.

Jacob Jaremko is a member of the Women and Children's Health Research Institute. His innovative U of A research is supported by a number of partner organizations, including the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and MIC Medical Imaging.