When I applied to the Health for America Fellowship, I had no idea what I was signing up for. I was attracted to the prospect of being involved in a human-centered design project with measurable real-world impact, a part of creating something to truly improve life for fellow Americans. I expected to put in hard work learning about healthcare, my knowledge of which began and ended at the lobby door of the family doctor, but other than that and a general goal of designing a helpful product, I had little idea of what was in store.
What I got was something unimaginable.
As a firm believer in learning by experience rather than reading or listening alone, I could not imagine a better educational experience in our healthcare system than Health for America, besides maybe 4 years of medical school. In the span of just 11 months, I went from not knowing the difference between in- and outpatient to being able to hold meaningful conversations with health professionals, all without any formal classes but by pure immersion alone.
And while the opportunities to learn about health were incomparable, they were just the tip of the iceberg. This year I gained knowledge in topics I’d have never thought to question before and even learned new ways to explore them. From load cells and micro-controllers to composite materials and piezoresistive foam, my understanding of many new subjects came as much from Twitter outreach and makerspace meetups as traditional internet research, tricks that I’m sure will come in handy as I head back to school.
But Health for America isn't just a learning experience, it's a chance to create something that solves problems for people living with chronic disease. We accepted that challenge and did some remarkable work. Countless hours of interviewing, brainstorming, sketching, and prototyping led us to an idea with the opportunity to have a huge impact, something I'm really proud of and excited to see become a reality.
While the learning, building, exploring, and competing have all been amazing, for me the most important part of Health for America was meeting the people. Our travel all over the country and, even the world, to medical facilities and health and tech conferences provided incredible opportunities to meet thought-leaders in medicine, successful healthcare entrepreneurs, and inventors on the brink of big breakthroughs. Our open access to Christiana Care Health System allowed us to connect with many heart failure patients to hear their unique stories and learn firsthand how we might be able to help.
But most importantly, the fellowship gave me the chance to meet three extraordinary women whose strength, intelligence, and talents have been a true inspiration and who I am excited to learn more from for years to come.