This Microsoft team volunteered their time to develop a SIDS research tool – MedCity News

SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, blocks

Thirteen and a half years ago, John Kahan and his family went through what Kahan describes as “by far the worst tragedy any human can experience:” they lost their baby son, Aaron.

Aaron died of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

And tragically, Kahan’s experience isn’t altogether uncommon. Around 4,000 infants in the United States die every year from SIDS, and that number hasn’t decreased significantly since the mid-1990s, according to Microsoft. It remains the number one cause of death in children between one and 12 months old.

It was heart-rending for Kahan, his wife Heather and their family, but they wanted to give back. So they gave gifts to charity. And Kahan himself started hiking to raise money and awareness.

Last summer, in fact, he hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Aaron’s name. “It’s super hard,” he told MedCity via a phone interview. “But I’m really glad I did it.”

When he returned from his climb, Kahan, who serves as Microsoft’s general manager of customer data and analytics, found his team of data scientists had been busy at work developing a SIDS research tool.

The team combed through an enormous CDC data set, which included information on 29 million births and more than 27,000 sudden infant deaths from 2004 to 2010. They put the information in Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing system that unveils possible correlations between data and SIDS, and then displayed it on Power BI.

Through the tool, researchers can validate their existing knowledge of SIDS.

“It’s a good opportunity for researchers to be able to dive into the data and understand pretty rapidly what’s correlated and what’s not,” Kahan said.

And there’s research on top of it, which can lead to a more personalized approach, Kahan noted. Asking a mother questions like, “How old are you?,” “Is your child firstborn?” and “Do you smoke?” can help lead to a better understanding of SIDS.

The team donated the tool to Seattle Children’s Research Institute. After Aaron was born, he received care at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Perhaps most incredibly, the Microsoft team volunteered their own time — more than 450 hours over the past year, in fact — to develop the tool. And through Microsoft’s Giving Campaign, which matches volunteer hours, the team raised more than $11,250 for Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“I have this incredible team,” Kahan said. “They also happen to be one of the most caring teams you’ve seen in your life.”

Despite the creation of this tool, there’s still work to be done.

In the 13 years since Aaron’s death, 52,000 children in the U.S. have died of unexplained causes, Kahan said. Annually, six of every 1,000 U.S. children die before their first year of birth, and one of those six dies of unexplained causes, he added.

That’s why he’s made it his personal mission to ensure that no parent ever experiences the loss of a child again, or worries that their child may be next. To that end, Kahan continues to arrange climbing-based fundraisers and raise money and awareness for SIDS.

That pain will never go away. But I can do something about it,” Kahan told MedCity. “I’ve never been more excited and hopeful.”

Photo: BradCalkins, Getty Images

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