Osmosis Co-Founders Ryan Haynes and Shiv Gaglani

Last Updated on March 7, 2019 by

Ryan Haynes, PhD and Shiv Gaglani, MBA discuss how they went from anatomy partners to the founders of Osmosis, an advanced learning platform that helps medical & other health professional students succeed in classes, on board exams, and in the clinic.
Tell us about yourself
Ryan: I’ve had a longstanding interest in how the brain works. Before attending Hopkins for med school I did a PhD in neuroscience at Cambridge studying decision making. I now live in Charlottesville, Virginia where my wife is a resident in neurology at UVA.
Shiv: I am passionate about developing scalable solutions in the fields of healthcare and education. I attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine between 2011-2013 and then took a leave of absence to co-found Osmosis as well as complete an MBA at Harvard Business School. I’m now based back in Baltimore where my fiance, Malorie, is an OB/GYN resident at Johns Hopkins.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Shiv: My family is very healthcare-oriented (medicine, dentistry, and physical therapy are all represented) so I was exposed to the field early on and loved the idea that I could directly and positively impact the lives of others. Thus I knew early on that I wanted to be involved in medicine and healthcare.
Ryan: I grew up in a rural area in north Louisiana. Healthcare was one of the jobs where you could have a tangible impact on the lives of people in your community. As I pursued my interests in medicine I began to explore other fields that piqued my curiosity like cognitive science, behavior, and education.
What drew you towards medicine?
Ryan: I’ve always said that there are two main things that determine quality of life: access to healthcare and access to education. To use a phrase from med school, those two fields are the most “high-yield” when trying to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Shiv: The direct impact you can have on others. It’s also a field that affects literally everyone on the planet.
Tell us about Osmosis in a nutshell
Ryan: Osmosis is an advanced learning platform that helps medical & other health professional students succeed in classes, on board exams, and in the clinic. It provides a large resource bank of videos (created by the former Khan Academy Medicine team which joined us in 2015), questions, flashcards, and other material as well as integrates links to other popular resources such as Sketchy, Picmonic, and First Aid. We chose the name “Osmosis” because of two unique aspects of our program: (1) Advanced technology that automatically analyzes your course material and recommends other content (i.e. “learning by Osmosis”), and (2) The ability for knowledge to “diffuse” not just from professors to students but between students. To date, more than 5,000 Osmosis users have created over 2,000,000 practice questions and flashcards for personal and class-wide use. In terms of our overall reach, our audience comprises more than 200,000 medical, nursing, PA, dental, veterinary, pharmacy, and other health profession students.
How did you come up with the idea for Osmosis?
Shiv: Ryan and I were anatomy team-based learning partners and within the first few weeks at Johns Hopkins realized that medical education could be improved through technology and cognitive science. We started building a tool that our classmates and us could use to perform better in classes and on board exams, and it’s since evolved into a much larger and more powerful movement to improve health education and eventually delivery.
What is Osmosis’s ultimate goal?
Ryan: We want to make learning medicine as efficient and enjoyable as possible. We see a future where every clinician will have learned by Osmosis, whether it’s using the platform or watching our popular videos.
How can Osmosis help students and health professionals?
Shiv: There are many ways Osmosis helps students, health professionals, and even patients. Most simply, our videos reach a broad audience and help students better understand concepts in physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. The videos are also used by practicing clinicians and residents who need review. And finally patients and family members even use the videos and comment on them that they’re helpful for better understanding conditions they may have, ranging from atrial fibrillation to Parkinson Disease.
Furthermore, the Osmosis learning platform has more advanced features such as the ability to automatically analyze a student’s course material and then recommend questions, flashcards, and other resources that help the student better learn and retain that information. We also have a board exam study scheduling tool that helps students stay organized so they don’t feel overwhelmed with exams like Step 1 and COMLEX and all the resources they may have accumulated.
What do you like to do for fun?
Shiv: My favorite hobbies are skiing, flying, playing chess, scuba diving, and biking. I also make sure to take a lot of trips with family and friends.
Ryan: I spend a decent amount of time listening to audio books especially if I can listen while playing a computer game. I enjoy learning about anything that changes the way I think about the world. I also make a point to slow down long enough to enjoy hiking or spending time with the people who are really important to me.
Has your work on Osmosis changed the way you approach your future as a physician?
Ryan: Yes, medical school doesn’t allow for a lot of time to step back and understand the broader healthcare market and how forces in that market impact patient care. Osmosis has helped me better understand the role of education in the quality and supply of health care as well as how things like professional certification can improve the delivery of care but only when done well.
Shiv: Yes, definitely. I’ve learned about the evolving medical education & healthcare landscapes including how artificial intelligence may change the roles of clinicians as well as the need for interprofessional teams to take care of patients. Our vision for Osmosis goes way beyond test prep – we want to help our users become better clinicians, and have formed collaborations with groups like Medscape and the American Board of Medical Specialties to this end.
What was the most challenging part of medical school for you?
Shiv: The inefficient way that medical school curricula are delivered. We know from a cognitive science perspective what works and there are very few medical schools that have implemented these, instead defaulting to 1-2 hour lectures by research experts.
Ryan: I think Shiv said it perfectly. There’s a huge potential to gain experience working with mentors in med school or doing research but a lot of time is wasted due to inefficiencies in the way material is delivered. It’s 2017, not 1995. The concept of a flipped classroom has existed for years and we still schedule lectures that schools know have poor attendance rates. It’s time to recognize that the role of the medical educator is shifting from lecturer to mentor via one-on-one sessions or in small groups.
Has anything surprised you about your work on Osmosis?
Shiv: How focused students are on boards now; in many ways the system is so focused on the proverbial trees that students don’t see the forest.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Shiv: Osmosis will be an order of magnitude larger than it is today, and I’d like to still be leading it.
Ryan: Likewise, I see a tremendous potential for Osmosis in improving the way we train healthcare professionals.
What do you think will be the next big thing in medicine / healthcare will be?
Shiv: The influence of machine learning and artificial intelligence on the delivery of care, and how it may democratize access to healthcare.
Ryan: It’s hard to argue with that. Whether it’s IBM’s Watson or some other technology that’s just getting started, I think med students graduating today can expect to see huge shifts in the way medicine is practiced within 10-15 years. This could have a major impact on certain healthcare jobs, but given that I tend to be optimistic about the role of tech in healthcare, I think that technology has the potential to restore the human side of medicine by giving doctors more time to attend to the emotional needs of their patients.
What’s your favorite premed or med school memory?
Shiv: In general my work with Osmosis has been the most gratifying since we’ve had the opportunity to take a pain point we identified as medical students and help hundreds of thousands of other students around the world learn.
Ryan: I would agree as well. I feel fortunate to have been able to work with so many talented individuals over the last few years who are all passionate about improving healthcare and education.
How do you hope that Osmosis changes medicine over the next decade?
Ryan: The ultimate goal of Osmosis is to help learners transition from basic memorization of facts to a more complete understanding of medicine starting with science and all the way to patient experiences and patient care. We also want to shorten the length of time required for training and open up more time for extracurriculars such as research. We think that this will ultimately improve access to and quality of health care.
Ryan Haynes, PhD is the Osmosis Chief Technology Officer; Shiv Gaglani, MBA is the Osmosis Chief Executive Officer.
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