Population Health

June 20, 2019

Initiative announces summer 2019 Social Entrepreneurship Fellows

Image of the three fellows

R – L: Esborn, Dey, and Masciel.

The Population Health Initiative announced the award of three Population Health Social Entrepreneurship Fellowships to graduate students to explore how to best deploy social entrepreneurship models for population health innovations developed by University of Washington researchers. All innovations are seeking novel ideas for how they can be financially sustainable while at the same time ensuring that the social impact of the work remains as important as revenue generation.

The inaugural cohort of students are:

  • Saswata Dey, an MBA student from the Foster School of Business;
  • Elizabeth Esborn, an MPA student from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance; and,
  • Karissa Masciel, a MSW student from the School of Social Work.

The Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program was launched this year by the Population Health Initiative, in partnership with the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and CoMotion, to expand opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in social entrepreneurship, while also providing UW investigators with a road-map for a sustainable route forward for their innovations.

Each fellow will have primary responsibility for one project, but fellows will also work as a team to contribute their disciplinary expertise to all three projects. The multidisciplinary nature of the program appealed to students across the university, with 30 applications received from disciplines including business, social work, engineering, public policy, global health, public health, pharmacy and information management.

Dey will work with Dror Ben Zeev, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, on FOCUS, which is a mobile health intervention for people with serious mental illness. FOCUS targets conditions such as hearing voices, depression, sleep, social function and medication use. Clinical studies have shown that the app is successful in engaging high-risk patients and has similar outcomes to clinic-based care. Dey will analyze various models by which FOCUS can best reach this vulnerable and marginalized patient population.

Esborn’s project is an innovation dubbed Project EMAR, which is a social robot that measures and potentially reduces stress in teens. Project EMAR is developed by Elin Bjorling, who is a research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering. The Project EMAR robot is designed to engage with teens in schools to collect self-reported stress and mood data. Due to the failure of many commercially-developed social robots as well as a desire to ensure that any final use of the robot is ethically driven, the EMAR team is looking for socially-focused entrepreneurship models for dissemination and sustainability of the robot.

Masciel will work on a program known as Communities that Care Plus (CTC Plus), which provides digital training content to help communities reduce risky behavior in youth, including smoking, substance abuse and violence. CTC Plus has been developed by Kevin Haggerty, Endowed Professor for Prevention, and the School of Social Work’s Social Development Research Group. Masciel will explore how CTC Plus can grow and scale sustainably, while ensuring it remains affordable and relevant to communities.

Learn more about this fellowship program by visiting its web page.