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Seeing the signs: How Obama leader Bhavagaya Bakshi is transforming cancer detection

On World Cancer Day, get to know one of our Obama Leaders who is working tirelessly to save lives by detecting cancer in its earliest stages. You can learn more about the Obama Foundation’s Leaders: Europe program here.

Bea presents her work.

While practicing as a physician in London, Bhavagaya “Bea” Bakshi treated a patient named Joe, who came in because he had been rapidly losing weight and experiencing other symptoms over a six-month period. After running tests, Bea had to deliver the tragic news that he had metastatic pancreatic cancer. “The question for him wasn’t ‘why did I get cancer?’ but ‘why was it diagnosed so late?’ He had done everything right,” Bea explained. “He stayed on top of his doctor’s visits. It was like the healthcare system had failed him.”

Joe died nearly three weeks later.

Joe’s heartbreaking story was just one of many that struck Bea during her years as a general practitioner, and those often tragic endings inspired her to co-found C the Signs (Opens in a new tab)—a platform that is helping doctors detect cancer earlier. Healthcare professionals in the UK’s National Health Service use C the Signs’ screening tool during a patient’s first visit to identify which tumors and cancers they may be at risk of, and what tests or referrals their patient might need next.

Obama Leader Bhavagaya Bakshi looks to camera with her C the Signs co-founder.

C the Signs co-founders Miles Payling and Bhavagaya “Bea”Bakshi.

During a time in which the UK has experienced an overall 85 percent drop in cancer referrals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, C the Signs has innovated its technology to allow doctors to safely risk assess patients remotely from their own homes using C the Signs. Right now, over 3,000 doctors use the platform, conducting over 600 risk assessments each and every week.

Obama Leader Bhavagaya Bakshi speaks into a microphone.

The daughter of Kenyan and Indian immigrants, Bea was raised in a culturally rich and diverse neighborhood in northwest London that instilled in her a sense of responsibility to care for others. “I grew up with a very strong sense of morality and was taught to value hard work and the notion of meritocracy, but I was also taught to think bigger about what I wanted to contribute to humanity, to the world around me.” Through her work at C the Signs, she’s living out her belief that every patient, anywhere in the world, has the right to survive cancer.