Dr. Desai earned her medical degree in 2010 and completed a residency in community medicine in 2014 in Surat, India. She focused her research on HIV in Gujarat state for her thesis. As a resident in community medicine, she worked on infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and immunization monitoring. Dr. Desai spent a year working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health in Gujarat on a health system strengthening project regarding water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities, including training on infection management and reproductive health. She then earned an M.P.H. from Hebrew University, Israel, where she completed a thesis project on telomere length dynamics and pulmonary function. She joined DCEG as a special volunteer in 2017, became an ORISE Fellow in 2018, and a staff scientist in May 2020.
Dr. Kanan Desai focuses on the development of new cervical cancer screening technologies that are affordable, scalable, and sustainable in low-resource settings. In a community-based field study in Nigeria, she is helping to develop and evaluate a novel low-cost screening and triage approach under the direction of Mark Schiffman, M.D., M.P.H. The approach combines self-sampling for HPV testing with partial genotyping; HPV-positive women are secondarily tested for risk of precancer using a smartphone-based deep-learning algorithm for automated visual evaluation (AVE) of cervical images. In addition, she is studying the prevalence and carcinogenicity of specific HPV genotypes/variants in the Nigerian population. Dr. Desai's also focuses on how to screen women safely for cervical cancer and other diseases in the COVID-19 era.