Population Health

October 5, 2022

Social Entrepreneurship Fellows develop strategic roadmaps for emerging innovations

Image of student engaged with a virtual reality headsetThe Population Health Initiative’s summer 2022 Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program concluded in August with the fellows presenting their findings to students, faculty and staff from schools and colleges across campus. The fellows spent 10 weeks working on population health innovations developed by University of Washington researchers to determine how these innovations could be financially sustainable while also having a substantial societal impact.

The Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program was developed 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 from all disciplines to gain real-world experience in social entrepreneurship while providing UW investigators with a roadmap to sustainability for their population health-related innovations. This year, the program returned to mostly in-person meetings at the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health.

The students selected for this summer’s program were:

Name Degree Program School
Gina Werdel Master of Public Administration Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Aradhana Gupta Master of Business Administration Foster School of Business
Yingbo Shi Master of Business Administration Foster School of Business
Samriddhi Simlai Technology Entrepreneurship Graduate Program, Master of Communication in Digital Media Foster School of Business, College of Arts and Sciences

The fellow’s final presentations and reports offered the UW investigators a detailed analysis in customer discovery, markets, competitive landscapes and a final recommendation for a business model to move their projects forward.

Werdel worked with the Dementia & Palliative Education Network (DPEN), whose goal is to transform nursing education to strengthen care for people living with dementia through curriculum for practicing nurses, curriculum for nursing students, and through a clinical decision support technology application. Werdel assessed how to best increase reach and impact of DPEN by evaluating the needs of current and potential users and buyers, creating an actionable timeline and conducting customer discovery with 25 stakeholders. Through her market research and stakeholder interviews, Werdel was able to offer recommendations on how to best utilize DPEN in a sustainable and marketable way forward. Her suggested priorities included a focus on staffing and role refinement, options for short-term revenue and more specific budgeting.

Gupta’s project, Strive, is a parent support and education program delivered in the context of parent-child visits to enhance parent engagement and the quality of parent-child visits. Strive utilizes in-person and Zoom training sessions, as well as a self-paced eLearning module, Strive Online, to bolster these crucial interactions in visitation settings. Over the 10-week fellowship period, Gupta examined Strive’s current challenges and areas for growth by engaging with 23 stakeholders—from parents, visit supervisors, child welfare agencies and potential funders. Gupta was able to offer specific recommendations for greater impact and marketability in terms of scaling, expanding access, deepening focus on personalization and offering specific budget and risk considerations. Gupta’s roadmap for success showcased a feasible and hopeful future for a much-needed program.

Shi spent the 10-week fellowship program investigating DetectIV, is a low-cost skin patch device that improves the safety of providing IV fluids and medications to newborns. Along with minimizing harm to vulnerable neonates, DetectIV is also a low-cost tool that improves overall care and simplifies intervention decisions. Shi conducted 30 stakeholder interviews with a range of nurses, neonatologists, medical directors and clinical nurse specialists to better understand market feasibility. Along with customer discovery, Shi also analyzed competitors, assessed barriers to success and looked at market growth drivers to build a successful pathway to sustainability. Her recommendations for next steps included exploring markets in other clinical and non-clinical settings, seeking out licensing opportunities and partnerships, evaluating regulatory pathways and validating product sensitivity and accuracy.

ConnectMyVariant is a public health initiative of the University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and helps patients with hereditary cancer connect with at-risk relatives and those relatives connect with hereditary cancer prevention health care providers. Simlai’s competitive analysis of ConnectMyVariant focused on the optimization of the patient funnel and how current competitors differ from ConnectMyVarient. Simlai was able to conduct 24 stakeholder interviews across health systems, federal and state health bodies, and corporations and insurance firms to gain key insights into greatest areas of interest and challenges. Simlai detailed a go-to-market strategy with a 10-year budgetary timeline to help ConnectMyVariant achieve business sustainability.

While the fellows all had primary responsibility for one project, the cohort structure enabled the students to work with each other and contribute their disciplinary expertise to all the other projects.