John Brownstein

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John S. Brownstein
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alma materMcGill University
AwardsPresidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 2010
Scientific career
FieldsEpidemiology Informatics
InstitutionsHarvard Medical School Boston Children’s Hospital

John Brownstein is a Canadian epidemiologist and Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School[1] as well as the Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.[2][3] His research focuses on development of computational methods in epidemiology for applications to public health also known as computational epidemiology or e-epidemiology [4] He is also the founder of several global public health surveillance systems including HealthMap. He is most known for his work on global tracking of disease outbreaks.[5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Brownstein grew up in Montreal and obtained his bachelor's degree in biology from the McGill University in 1999.[7] He received a Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2004 from Yale University for work on the emergence of Lyme disease[8] and West Nile Virus[9] In the United States.


Brownstein joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in 2005, where he focused on the intersection of epidemiology and computer science. He directs the Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator also at Boston Children.[10] He was appointed as full Professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School in 2015; tenured at age 36, he was one of the youngest professors to receive tenure in the modern history of Harvard Medical School. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2010 and the Lagrange Prize in 2016. He was honored with the 40 under 40 award by Boston Business Journal in 2015[11] and by Medtech Boston in 2016.[12]


Brownstein’s pioneered the creation of Computational Epidemiology and E-epidemiology- utilizing diverse digital data sources to understand populations.[13][14] He has published 200 peer-reviewed papers, all focused on new methods and applications in public health surveillance. Overall, his research agenda aims to facilitate the control and prevention of disease through better epidemiologic understanding of factors influencing disease risk, improved practice of public health and engaging the public around critical health issues. As part of this work, he has built and maintains several patient facing public health systems, including HealthMap, an internet-based global infectious disease intelligence system.[15][16][17][18]

During the H1N1 pandemic, his research made important contributions to our understanding of the emergence of the virus in Mexico and its subsequent global spread.[19][20][21]

His work is credited with supporting early detection and surveillance of Cholera in 2010,[22][23] Ebola in 2014,[24][25][26][27][28] Zika in 2015.[29][30] His work has led to the application of crowdsourcing in health; a field termed "participatory epidemiology". .[31][32] His work has been funded from diverse array of sources including The U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).[33] Along with Sachin H. Jain he coined the term "Digital Phenotype" in a seminal paper in Nature Biotechnology.

Commercial efforts[edit]

Brownstein is co-founder of Epidemico[34] a commercial spinoff of Boston Children’s Hospital that was acquired by Booz Allen Hamilton in 2014.[35][36]

He is also the official advisor to Uber (company) on healthcare applications where he started the UberHealth initiative.[37][38][39]


  1. ^ "John Brownstein". Harvard Department of Biomedical Informatics.
  2. ^ "Boston Children's taps John Brownstein as Chief Innovation Officer".
  3. ^ "Meet the new CIO of Boston Children's Hospital John Brownstein".
  4. ^ "Computational Epidemiology Lab".
  5. ^ "Tracking Diseases Globally". Boston Globe.
  6. ^ "When big tech companies want to get into health, they call this Harvard researcher". CNBC.
  7. ^ "1999 Yearbook: McGill University, page 226".
  8. ^ Brownstein, John S.; Holford, Theodore R.; Fish, Durland (2005). "Effect of Climate Change on Lyme Disease Risk in North America". EcoHealth. 2 (1): 38–46. doi:10.1007/s10393-004-0139-x. ISSN 1612-9202. PMC 2582486. PMID 19008966.
  9. ^ Brownstein, John S.; Holford, Theodore R.; Fish, Durland (2004). "Enhancing West Nile Virus Surveillance, United States". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 10 (6): 1129–1133. doi:10.3201/eid1006.030457. ISSN 1080-6040.
  10. ^ "Boston Children's Hospital Accelerator".
  11. ^ "Here are the BBJ's 40 Under 40 honorees for 2015".
  13. ^ Brownstein, John S.; Freifeld, Clark C.; Madoff, Lawrence C. (2009). "Digital Disease Detection — Harnessing the Web for Public Health Surveillance". New England Journal of Medicine. 360 (21): 2153–2157. doi:10.1056/NEJMp0900702. ISSN 0028-4793. PMC 2917042. PMID 19423867.
  14. ^ Jain, Sachin H; Powers, Brian W; Hawkins, Jared B; Brownstein, John S (2015). "The digital phenotype". Nature Biotechnology. 33 (5): 462–463. doi:10.1038/nbt.3223. ISSN 1087-0156.
  15. ^ "Disease Sleuths Surf for Outbreaks Online". NPR.
  16. ^ "Social Media Join Toolkit for Hunters of Disease". NY Times.
  17. ^ " Using the Web to Track Deadly Diseases in Real Time". Time.
  18. ^ "Outbreaks: A Tool to Track Animal Diseases May Help to Protect Humans". NY Times.
  19. ^ Brownstein, John S.; Freifeld, Clark C.; Chan, Emily H.; Keller, Mikaela; Sonricker, Amy L.; Mekaru, Sumiko R.; Buckeridge, David L. (2010). "Information Technology and Global Surveillance of Cases of 2009 H1N1 Influenza". New England Journal of Medicine. 362 (18): 1731–1735. doi:10.1056/NEJMsr1002707. ISSN 0028-4793. PMC 2922910.
  20. ^ Brownstein, John S.; Freifeld, Clark C.; Madoff, Lawrence C. (2009). "Influenza A (H1N1) Virus, 2009 — Online Monitoring". New England Journal of Medicine. 360 (21): 2156–2156. doi:10.1056/NEJMp0904012. ISSN 0028-4793. PMC 2922951. PMID 19423868.
  21. ^ "Tracking Swine Flu? There's an app for that". NBC NightlyNews.
  22. ^ "Texts, maps battle Haiti cholera outbreak". CNN.
  23. ^ Chunara, R.; Andrews, J. R.; Brownstein, J. S. (2012). "Social and News Media Enable Estimation of Epidemiological Patterns Early in the 2010 Haitian Cholera Outbreak". American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 86 (1): 39–45. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0597. ISSN 0002-9637. PMC 3247107.
  24. ^ "Meet the Bots That Knew Ebola Was Coming". Time.
  25. ^ "Ebola Mappers Track Epidemic in Real Time". NBC News.
  26. ^ "Smart Machines Join Humans in Tracking Africa Ebola Outbreak". Scientific American.
  27. ^ "Want to spot an outbreak before your friends? Look at this map". PBS.
  28. ^ Zinszer, Kate; Morrison, Kathryn; Anema, Aranka; Majumder, Maimuna S; Brownstein, John S (2015). "The velocity of Ebola spread in parts of west Africa". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 15 (9): 1005–1007. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00234-0. ISSN 1473-3099.
  29. ^ "Dr. John Brownstein's HealthMap Tracks Zika Virus". WGBH.
  30. ^ Majumder, Maimuna S; Santillana, Mauricio; Mekaru, Sumiko R; McGinnis, Denise P; Khan, Kamran; Brownstein, John S (2016). "Utilizing Nontraditional Data Sources for Near Real-Time Estimation of Transmission Dynamics During the 2015-2016 Colombian Zika Virus Disease Outbreak". JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. 2 (1): e30. doi:10.2196/publichealth.5814. ISSN 2369-2960.
  31. ^ "iPhone App Finds Disease Outbreaks Near You". Wired.
  32. ^ Freifeld, Clark C.; Chunara, Rumi; Mekaru, Sumiko R.; Chan, Emily H.; Kass-Hout, Taha; Ayala Iacucci, Anahi; Brownstein, John S. (2010). "Participatory Epidemiology: Use of Mobile Phones for Community-Based Health Reporting". PLoS Medicine. 7 (12): e1000376. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000376. ISSN 1549-1676. PMC 2998443. PMID 21151888.
  33. ^ "Children's Hospital and Google team up to track disease outbreaks". Bostinno.
  34. ^ "Epidemico".
  35. ^ "Five ways a Boston Children's Hospital spin-off is using social media for public health". Mobihealthnews.
  36. ^ "". Washington Post. External link in |title= (help)
  37. ^ "Outsmart the Flu with UberHEALTH". Uber.
  38. ^ "The Uber Will See You Now". Buzzfeed.
  39. ^ "Now there's an Uber for flu shots". The Today Show.