The digital specialists breaking the last taboo

September 11, 2018

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Maya Apa, a digital wellbeing assistant, is re-inventing the way people from all walks of life access specialist advice on health, lifestyle and legal matters. It combines AI and real doctors to connect users to experts. 

Maya Apa is one of BRAC’s socially-responsible investments that assist in the organisation’s mission to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy and disease and social injustice.  In 2017, Maya Apa became the first Bangladeshi startup to be accepted into Google Launchpad Accelerator Programme in California.

Dr Shayla Ahmed, the medical team lead of Maya Apa, shares the importance of empathy and research in leading a team of medical experts, and answering to people on the other end of the line.

Dr Shayla Ahmed
Medical Team Lead
Dhaka, Bangladesh

“A father of a seven-year-old child messaged us once. I remember vividly. He sounded utterly helpless. The child, according to him, had traits he could not explain. He would be studying one moment, then would suddenly lose his ability to recognise the words he had just read. His school complained about him too. We identified it as a case of dyslexia, but the father had no idea what that was or why it happened. He was so lost.

Another time, a 15-year-old married girl wrote to us regarding menstruation. She had no idea what was happening, did not know who to talk to, did not even know what to ask.

We discuss so little about important issues due to stigma. The most important topics are left out of our medical and school curriculums.

I always frame answers with a family member or friend in mind. What if they were suffering this, what would I recommend? I am always on my toes, always learning and researching and ensuring that my team are too. We focus on the taboo health and mental health topics that people often find too uncomfortable to discuss. We answer correctly, with empathy, and no personal bias or judgement.

I always wanted to be a doctor. My father also wanted to be a doctor but could not do so. I am giving medical advice now, in a completely different way to what either of us expected. I am living the life he wanted. I am very proud of where Maya Apa is today. We are only a very new team, but we are doing some really important work.”


To read more of these stories, visit Annual Report 2017.

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Taher Khan
Taher Khan
5 years ago

Very Good Initiatives, Thousands of Rural people don’t get the proper health consultations in due time,
Hope your work will bring some positive changes in rural area of Bangladesh.