Pioneering Ideas Podcast

Welcome to RWJF's Pioneering Ideas podcast—a bi-monthly podcast for people interested in exploring cutting-edge ideas and emerging trends. We seek to inspire new thinking, spark “aha! moments” and cultivate rich, ongoing conversations. Join us each episode as we talk with visionary thinkers in and outside of health care and discover together new ways to build a Culture of Health.

Listen to the Latest Episode

The MIT Media Lab’s Wellness Initiative (3:56): RWJF chief technology and information officer, Steve Downs (@stephenjdowns), speaks with director and founder of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, Rosalind Picard (@rosalindpicard). Steve and Rosalind discuss how, through a grant from RWJF, the Media Lab is working to build a Culture of Health within its own walls and exploring the ways in which cutting-edge technologies in all aspects of our lives can be designed to promote better health.

Social Connections for Better Health (21:22): RWJF grantees Nicholas Christakis (@nachristakis), the author of Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, and Eric Klinenberg (@ericklinenberg), the author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, meet for the first time and have a wide-ranging conversation about the role of social relationships in understanding our well-being...and how we can use this information to design a healthier world.

A Conversation with RWJF’s Entrepreneur-In-Residence Susannah Fox (46:12): RWJF director Lori Melichar (@lorimelichar) sits down with RWJF entrepreneur-in-residence Susannah Fox (@susannahfox) to discuss how big organizations like the Foundation should explore innovation and do more listening on the path to building a Culture of Health.

Personal Essay from Linda Stone: How Can Technology Connect Us to Who We Really Are? (54:45):
Visionary writer and speaker Linda Stone (@lindastone), formerly of Apple and Microsoft, shares her approach to personal well-being, one where we “harness technology to help us listen to our bodies and not just our minds,” and using technology to measure what really matters.

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Read quote

“Everybody's line of work, whether it's making office furniture, or making food you're putting in a vending machine, or providing a service to somebody—we're all impacting one another's well-being.”

Rosalind Picard, MIT Media Lab

Meet The Host

Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar


Lori Melichar, a labor economist, is a director at the Foundation where she focuses on discovering, exploring and learning from cutting-edge ideas with the potential to help create a Culture of Health.

EPIsode 7


Stress Connections

From monitoring electricity use as a way of helping the elderly stay in their homes, to measuring the indirect health effects of social services (what if heating assistance led to greater medication adherence?), this episode explores unconventional approaches to tackling stress­—and other health problems—with energizing possibilities that could also transform health and health care. Guests include Dr. Paul Tang of the Palo Alto Medical FoundationHarvard economist and TED speaker Sendhil Mullainathan, and entrepreneur and speaker Alexandra Drane.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 6

Episode 5


Conspiracy Theories, Microbiomes & More

What can belief in conspiracy theories can tell us about health and health care? Listen to the Foundation’s latest thinking on measuring a Culture of Health. What impact can understanding microbiomes have on building a healthier world? Hear an insightful discussion about the ripple effects of sleep on our mental and physical well-being. Guests include grantee Eric Oliver, RWJF's chief science officer and vice president of research-evaluation-learning Alonzo Plough, microbiome scientist Jessica Green and Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 4


MakerNurse, Visualizing Health Data & More

We explore nurses' bedside innovations, leveraging alternative marketplaces for health, RWJF’s new collaboration Visualizing Health and highlights from the master class conversation at TED 2014. Guests include grantees Kelly Reilly, Roxana Reyna, and Mary Beth Dwyer (MakerNurse), Terry McDonald (St. Vincent de Paul), George Wang (SIRUM), former RWJF entrepreneur in residence Thomas Goetz, designer Tim Leong, University of Michigan's Brian Zikmund-Fisher, game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO's Tim Brown.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 3


Empathy, Choice & the Next Generation of Innovators

What can we use social entrepreneurship to impact global health challenges? In this episode we explore entrepreneurship, the science of choosing, and the radical power of empathy. Guests include Swartmore College professor of social theory and social action Barry Schwartz, Columbia University professor of business Sheena Iyengar, Iora Health's Rushika Fernandopulle and Princeton students Azza Cohen and Justin Ziegler.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 2


Pitch Day, Payment Reform & Behavior Change

How can we best understand how effective behavior change works and how to get the human motivators right in health care? We're also answering questions from listeners and give a sneak peek into RWJF's first-ever Pitch Day. Guests include RWJF's assistant vice president of research-evaluation-learning Brian Quinn, social scientist BJ Fogg, former entrepreneur in residence Thomas Goetz, angel investor Esther Dyson and NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 1


Behavioral Economics, the Science of Placebo Studies & More

What are the pros and cons of making proposals public? Get insight into our funding strategy and explore highlights from the Behavioral Economics Call for Problems. We also cover developing the science of placebo studies and innovating medical practice and research. Guests include RWJF's assistant vice president of research-evaluation-learning Brian Quinn, co-directors of the Foundation's Behavioral Economics Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania Drs. Kevin Volpp and David Asch, grantee and Harvard University professor Ted Kaptchuk and grantee Ben Heywood of PatientsLikeMe.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.