PVM’s public health team has extensive experience and expertise solving data challenges that improve surveillance and outbreak response and are experts in the Palantir Foundry platform. We sat down with Kane Patel, an epidemiologist and current PVM public health leader, to learn more about his role and PVM’s public health team.
Tell me about your previous professional experience and how it led you to PVM. How has that impacted your work with our public health client?
I used to be an epidemiologist at CDC. There, I worked in an outbreak response and prevention branch leading investigations for multistate foodborne and zoonotic outbreaks—think Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. To do my job successfully and solve outbreaks, I had to use various tools to collect, analyze, and visualize surveillance data from state and jurisdictional partners. It was my job to interpret that data and help make recommendations to stop more people from getting sick — whether that be through a recall or just general advice. At PVM, we help build out those data collection tools and analysis tools so that it is easier for folks at CDC to collect surveillance data, analyze and visualize that data, and communicate interpreted results back out to the public. I was our current client, so I know what their pain points are, and potentially some things that could be useful that even they don’t know yet!
When you were looking to work for PVM, what stood out to you that made you want to work on this side of things?
I always liked working with data — and PVM obviously works with data — but I think one of the coolest and most underrated parts of the job is being able to make the data collection and the data analysis easier for folks that really just don't have the time to get into the nitty gritty of collecting and building out those pipelines themselves.
Scientists want to focus on the science more often than not, and that makes complete sense. For example, one of our main client’s goals is to be able to interpret the data in front of her and make a recommendation. She doesn’t care about maximizing the efficiency of how that data got to her. While it may help her get a result quicker, she ultimately cares about the result she is working towards getting. I find the how rewarding though, because now I’m able to make everyone else's job easier in terms of what I used to do, so they can focus on their primary objectives.
Can you describe the PVM public health team, who they are, what they do and how they work together to help our clients accomplish their missions?
The PVM public health team consists of engineers, a project manager/account manager and me, the business development lead for our public health client. This team comes with experience and perspectives gained from working on various projects. Our engineering team lead is Sally Chase followed by our senior engineers Eddie Mata and Brian Jester. We also have a junior engineer, De'Andre Ajayi. Right now, they’re working on six projects across the CDC, all focused on modernizing surveillance and outbreak response systems. This is a big endeavor that the team jumped at the chance to perform with excitement. Leroy Basnight, who recently joined us, serves as the project manager, makes sure all the projects are on schedule and within budget — he ensures that the engineers only have to worry about engineering.
And then, of course, there's me who kind of serves as the main face for PVM when it comes to our public health clients. I interact with clients and help them determine what's next or help them determine, for example, if there could be a lot of improvements for a particular surveillance system and so forth. I also have an eye on the deliverables and products that are created by our team, and I make sure they are of the quality and expectations necessary for our clients. Lastly, I support our development team by identifying what a client is going to want or need early on so that those conversations later down the line are a lot easier. And that's not to say that our engineers don't interact well with the client, or any of the other clients. I'm just there to make their job easier.
Why does PVM's work matter for the public health of our communities?
Part of our public health clients’ missions is to increase the health security of the nation and protect from outbreak. To do that, you have to have the right tools in place. PVM helps build and maintain those tools. We're directly helping our clients maintain a healthier nation, and that matters just as much as anything else in my books.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with the people. I love working with everyone on the PVM team. The public health team is made up of lots of different backgrounds and lots of different experiences. And I never really worked with developers and engineers before, so it's been a learning experience for me. They've been super helpful and patient in teaching me. And then on the flip side, I still get to talk to my CDC friends. I get to nerd out and talk about science with them and help them in a different way than what I could have while I was at CDC.
Tell me a little bit about your experience with PVM’s company culture.
I kind of just touched on it. Everyone's friendly, but more so everyone's forthcoming with help and assistance whenever you need it. I was not involved in the tech world before I came to PVM, so I was afraid of that transition originally. But the team that I had made it really easy. I'm super grateful for that. It has definitely been a positive experience.
How does Challenge Accepted fit into your work with PVM?
Building out surveillance systems and maintaining surveillance systems is a challenge. Period. If everyone or every company could do that, we wouldn't be winning all these contracts. PVM accepted that challenge knowing that it's a very niche role and it's hard to do, and we've excelled at it which is proven by our growth within the public health market. We accepted the challenge and are conquering the challenge at the same time.