In the corner of a lab packed with computers and equipment, doctoral student Christopher Lam stands at a workstation decorated with photos of his dog wearing a Duke head scarf or safety goggles. He gestures toward a colposcope — a stereo microscope almost as tall as he is — that uses reflected light to screen for cervical cancer. “Imagine being a health worker in a setting like Haiti, and you have to carry something like this on the back of a motorcycle,” he says.
Lam and others in the Tissue Optical Spectroscopy (TOpS) Lab are working on an entrepreneurial alternative to the giant device, one they hope will help improve women’s health across the developing world. They have been developing a vastly smaller colposcope, one shaped like a tampon that can connect wirelessly to a tablet or smartphone. Inspired by a spy pen, the device would enable women to take pictures of their own cervix and send them to their physicians, eliminating the need for a physical exam at a potentially distant clinic.