Four fellows from diverse academic backgrounds are working together at Health for America, an innovative program focused on improving the treatment of chronic disease. This year, the fellowship’s focus is heart failure. The inaugural initiative is a partnership with Christiana Care, Discover Bank, Start It Up Delaware and the Delaware Community Foundation.
“With nontraditional backgrounds in engineering, consulting and public health, the fellows bring a fresh perspective to health care,” said Mitchell Saltzberg, M.D., FACC, FAHA, medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Christiana Care’s Center for Heart & Vascular Health. “The fellows are exceptionally bright, infectiously enthusiastic and are approaching a very complex problem with no preconceived ideas, which gives them a unique perspective.”
“With nontraditional backgrounds in engineering, consulting and public health, the fellows bring a fresh perspective to health care.”
Fellows are working with experts at Christiana Care and around the country to develop a solution for patients that is effective, sustainable and commercially viable. Heart failure, in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, is responsible for 1 million hospital admissions in the U.S. each year.
“We are excited to work with Health for America, our community partners and an enthusiastic group of fellows who will bring new and fresh ideas to health care,” said Patrick Grusenmeyer, Sc.D., president of Christiana Care Health Initiatives, which explores creative solutions to improve patient care. “We look forward to developing innovative technological solutions to add greater quality and value and advance the care of patients who suffer from heart failure.”
“One of the things that drew me to the program was being part of a project that would have a meaningful impact on a large group of people,” said Nick Azpiroz, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in science, technology and society, with a focused depth in mechanical engineering.
The fellows are engaging a wide range of stakeholders across the country in addressing heart failure, including patients, doctors, pharmacists, policy makers, caregivers and others.
“We’ve been given an amazing opportunity in entrepreneurship,” said Ellen Kourakos, a recent Northwestern University grad who worked as a research and development engineer for a medical device company. “We have incredible access as a group that we might not have as individuals.”
The fellows are using a methodology called design thinking, in which innovations are achieved through a profound and thorough understanding of what people need, said Megan Caldwell, who earned a degree in policy analysis from Indiana University.
“Talking with many stakeholders allows us to look at heart failure in many different ways,” she said.
Sandra Hwang, a second-year health policy student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, said the fellowship represents an exciting opportunity for collaboration.
“We are drawing our training in design, business, engineering and health on a regular basis,” she said. “What is one fellow’s applied expertise is another’s opportunity to learn.”