Meet the Pioneer Advisory Group

Aug 10, 2012, 1:58 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn / RWJF Brian Quinn

Luke had Yoda. Sherlock Holmes had Watson. Franklin had Eleanor.

Advisers can play an important role in innovation. They offer knowledge and vision. They bring an outside perspective. And, they often have networks of colleagues with additional experience and expertise.

RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio is in the business of identifying and exploring new ideas and approaches that help shape the future of health and health care and accelerating those that have the potential to create breakthroughs.

We recognize that the kind of innovation that can create transformative change in health and health care can come from many places. To be successful, we need to operate at the forefront of new ideas and trends—from science and technology to education and management. And we need to continually explore unconventional ideas, new fields, and new ways of approaching problems. This is a tall order.

That is why I am happy to announce that we now have our own esteemed group of advisers from diverse fields to help us along the way. The Pioneer Advisory Group, a team of six thought leaders, will work with us throughout the coming year to accelerate our efforts to identify and connect with leading innovators and new ideas. They’ll also provide that crucial outside perspective and critical review that is so important as we work to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

We are grateful for their time and enthusiasm and look forward to learning from and with them over the next 12 months. Please join me in welcoming Loren Buhle, Ted Eytan, Lucky Gunasekara, Sara Holoubek, Cato Laurencin, and Sendhil Mullainathan to our advisory team. Learn more about them below—and, if you run into them and have a pioneering idea to share or new area we should explore, I'm sure they'll send them our way.

E. Loren Buhle, Jr., PhD, Life Sciences Executive, IBM
Loren has more than 25 years of experience in scientific and clinical research, business management, and information systems. While on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, he created an award-winning (and for 1993, highly controversial)  website, OncoLink (now focused on bringing cancer information to patients, caregivers, social workers, clinicians, and other interested parties. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, one approved IEEE Standard, several award-winning websites (Oncolink,, Eli Lilly’s “Managing Your Diabetes,” and The Scientist) and three books.

Ted Eytan, MD, MS, MPH, Director, Kaiser Permanente, @tedeytan 
Ted is a director at Kaiser Permanente within The Permanente Federation, LLC. He works with large medical groups and technologists to leverage health information technology to ensure patients and their families have an active role in their own health care. A family medical doctor, Ted is interested in preventive care and reducing disparities in health status among vulnerable populations. He is a regular user of social media tools to promote open leadership. Read his blog.

Lucky Gunasekara, Co-founder and Executive Director, Vulcan Labs, @luckorchance
Lucky is a designer and researcher studying interaction design, data science, network science, and behavioral economics, and the ways to combine them in both research and products. He is the co-founder and executive director of Vulcan Labs, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, developing an integrated health IT stack for developing countries. He is also a fellow at, and spends his nights and weekends working with Nicholas Christakis and the Human Nature Lab at Harvard on Pioneer-funded research of how to apply social network analysis at-scale to detect epidemics early.

Sara Holoubek, Founder and CEO, Luminary Labs, @sarita
Sara is the founder and CEO of Luminary Labs, a strategy and innovation consultancy focused on organizations in transition. Her firm helps companies develop more resilient business models by applying new approaches to people, process, and technology. She serves on the New York board of directors of the Step Up Women's Network. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Pepsico WIN award for her contributions to the tech community, including the development of A Field Guide To, an online directory of high-profile female founders, deal-makers, and influencers.

Cato T. Laurencin, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science
Cato is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, and Distinguished Professor of Chemical, Materials, and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. Cato directs the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and is chief executive officer of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. His research involves tissue engineering, biomaterials science, nanotechnology, and stem cell science. He was recently named among “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers., His work in musculoskeletal tissue regeneration was featured in National Geographic Magazine’s “100 Discoveries that Changed Our World” edition. Read his blog.

Sendhil Mullainathan, PhD, economics Professor, Harvard University, @m_sendhil
Sendhil is a professor of economics at Harvard University and founder of ideas42, a nonprofit organization devoted to taking insights about people from behavioral economics and using it to create novel policies, interventions, and products. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a founding member of the Poverty Action Lab, and a board member of the Bureau of Research in the Economic Analysis of Development. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship award known as a "genius grant" and has recently been appointed assistant director of research at the U.S. Treasury’s newly minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.