Business Name: Health for America, a service granting fellowships to young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds
Type of Business: Social Enterprise
Business Location: Washington D.C., United States
Reason for starting
Health for America was created in 2012, but its roots go further back. Like many college students, I remember being frustrated that there were few opportunities to explore the health field before committing to a career in it. As I worked in global health organizations, I saw the potential of entrepreneurial, community-based technology solutions in countries around the world. I was fortunate to be selected as one of twenty Americans to spend a year in Germany building trans-Atlantic relations as part of the prestigious Robert Bosch Fellowship. Here, I saw the impact of a prestigious fellowship on personal and professional growth. As I discussed the challenges of health care delivery with my co-founder, Kapil Parakh, a cardiologist at Hopkins, I shared these stories and a vision was born: to empower young leaders to use America’s greatest strength – entrepreneurship – to tackle its greatest challenge – health.
How do you define success?
At Health for America, we are passionate about maximizing the impact of our efforts and investments. We see the benefits of our work in three ways: 1. The creation of solutions for chronic disease that improve health of vulnerable communities around the country 2. The development of young leaders by providing them with unique training and experience in health entrepreneurship 3. The fostering of a culture of innovation at health institutions. In these ways, we hope to make both immediate and lasting improvements to the health of the nation.
Since founding in June 2012, we at Health for America have been humbled by the recognition we have received. We have attracted collaboration requests from major academic medical centers including Harvard, George Washington, UCSF, Johns Hopkins, and University of Pittsburgh. In addition, we have garnered interest from private sector organizations including IDEO, Vodafone Americas Foundation and Qualcomm. We have also had significant interest from potential fellows which has been incredibly exciting. As co-founder of Health for America, I was a winner of the Case Foundation’s Finding Fearless Campaign from 1,200 nominees. I was also awarded the SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. In addition, my co-founder and I have been invited to speak at national and international conferences. Health for America is now working to build on this exciting start and is on track to launch a pilot class of fellows.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
A key challenge is funding for the organization given our pioneering and novel approach. We are tackling this through a diversified approach with both short term and long term strategies for sustainability. This includes corporate partnerships with both financial and in-kind support; philanthropy from high net worth individuals; donations with a grassroots campaign to solicit contributions from individuals; grants from a variety of sources; direct funding from health systems and social entrepreneurship through a modest equity stake in ventures started during the fellowship.
Who is your most important role model?
My mom is my greatest inspiration. Of Indian origin, I grew up in a modest household in Zambia. Yet my mother encouraged me to aim high. With her support, I mastered Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) at the age of 13; finished high school two years early; migrated to the United States for college; held leadership positions at international organizations; secured prestigious fellowships; completed three masters, and gained national awards. My mom has taught me to keep reaching for the stars.