Health for America Fellows Head to Boston

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Health for America’s 2014-2015 fellows, from left to right: Sandra Hwang, Nick Azpiroz, Ellen Kourakos and Megan Caldwell. All photos and videos provided by the fellows.

It’s the problem of our generation: our healthcare system isn’t much of a system at all. But in an innovative change of direction, Health for America – a nonprofit and fellowship program – is looking not to medicine alone but to entrepreneurship to provide new solutions.

“Instead of funding a predetermined health solution, Health for America (HFA) and its partners are flipping the typical model of investment: the fellowship funds individuals who have proven to be leaders in their communities and asks them to work full-time to develop a deep understanding of the problem,” the 2014-2015 HFA fellows explained to us in an email. “We’re then given the time and resources to develop a specific, high impact solution that will improve outcomes and lower costs.”

This year, the 2014-2015 cohort will focus on one chronic issue in particular: heart failure. It’s a problem that affects 5.1 million people and is estimated to cost the U.S. $32 billion annually. Ultimately, they’ll build a solution that utilizes both design thinking and lean start-up techniques. But in looking for a “solution,” they’ll also be searching outside of the box, so to speak – or maybe even drawing their own box. They aren’t required to build a specific product, nor are they required to focus on the entire area of heart failure. Rather, they’ll work with stakeholders (patients, healthcare policy makers and more) on many different aspects of heart failure, including psychological needs and emergency room protocols. There are no rules.

“It is an unique opportunity to learn about the healthcare system end-to-end, design human-centered solutions, and build a lean startup with three other passionate people,” they told us. “Most startups don’t have the ability to research and build an idea in a safe space supported by a non-profit who shares their passion; Health for America has given us that opportunity.”

Right now, the 2014-2015 fellows are working out of Delaware but visiting many different cities to research the issue. The best news? They’re headed to our great city of Boston for some research and play this week, so we thought we’d get to know them!

Ellen Kourakos is a manufacturing and design engineer who has a background in medical devices, specifically in developing minimally invasive surgical tools for vertebral compression fractures. Meet Ellen:
Nick Azpiroz has a BA in Science, Technology and Society from Stanford. He’ll start working on a masters in mechanical engineering in 2015. Meet Nick:

Sandra Hwang is a masters candidate in health policy at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and she’s the youngest American to be EDAC certified in evidence-based design for healthcare settings. Meet Sandra:

Megan Caldwell graduated with a degree in public and environmental affairs, then spent two years working with government healthcare agencies as part of a management consulting firm in DC. Meet Megan:

“We are incredibly excited to be in Boston, a city captivated by beautiful design and dedicated to improving healthcare delivery through disruptive innovation,” they said. “Every person we are meeting with has matched our enthusiasm and is eager to share their expertise to help us move towards a solution.”

The HFA fellows – they call themselves NEMS – will be in Boston from October 23-30, 2014. See their itinerary hereThey’ll also be available for questions on our new “MedTech Boston Talk” interactive online forum during their visit. Want to hear about the coolest innovations at The Connected Health Symposium, or what really goes on inside the MIT Media Lab? Want to meet up with the fellows while they’re here? Just ask here.

Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.
Jenni Whalen

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