Pioneering Ideas Podcast

Welcome to RWJF's Pioneering Ideas podcast—a 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

What happens when you can see the burden of asthma in a community—when you make the invisible visible? In this episode RWJF’s Paul Tarini connects with grantee Ted Smith, PhD, Chief of Civic Innovation in Louisville, Kentucky, to explore how Air Louisville is doing just that—and how it's changing how his city is finding solutions for better health. Ted and his team are leading an innovative approach where patients are using GPS-enabled inhalers that allow data scientists to pinpoint the geographic location of the triggers of asthma flare-ups. Pairing this data with other sources—from traffic patterns to air quality—this program is using city-wide collaboration to create policies and solutions that will make Louisville a healthier place to live.

To learn more about how Louisville is thinking differently about improving health in its communities, read Lori Melichar's conversation with Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, who shares his thoughts on why cities should explore creative and innovative solutions as they work to build healthy communities.

Do you have a cutting-edge idea to build a Culture of Health? Pitch it to us.

Be sure to join the conversation and share your thoughts at #RWJFPodcast on Twitter. Did you enjoy what you heard?

Subscribe to Pioneering Ideas on iTunes or Stitcher, or find us on Pocket Casts and don’t miss an episode.

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“If the economy of health is about treating sick people all the time who are getting sicker, we're not going to win economically as a community. If we can shift our focus to be a healthier place—valuing health and seeing what drives health—that gives us all a good feeling that we're on the right path."

Ted Smith, PhD, Chief of Civic Innovation in Louisville, Kentucky

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 build a Culture of Health.

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How can #healthdata help solve a city’s #chronicdisease? Find out on the newest #RWJFPodcast

episode 12


Your Brain on Games

What does cutting-edge brain science and video game technology mean for the future of wellness? We're exploring the cognitive power of the brain through the lens of video games with Adam Gazzaley (@adamgazz), professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at UC-San Francisco, and Jane Lowe (@jisaacslowe), RWJF senior advisor for program development. Listen in as they discuss Gazzaley’s work and what happens when you use neuroscience to develop healthy video games.

episode 11


Mind Over Stress

Join us as we explore resilience and the practice of mindfulness to manage stress with Amit Sood (@AmitSoodMD), MD, MSc, FACP, professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic College and Chair of Mayo Mind Body Initiative, and Mike Painter (@paintmd), RWJF senior program officer. Together they discuss what Amit and his team are doing to improve health through teaching compassion and utilizing the strengths of the brain.

episode 10


Virtual Reality for Social Good

In this episode, we explore how virtual reality technology can be used to help build social good. Founding Director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, grantee Jeremy Bailenson (@StanfordVR) and RWJF's Tracy Costigan (@TECostigan) discuss Jeremy’s explorations in using virtual reality to build empathy and more. It’s a fascinating discussion that examines the potential for virtual reality to build a Culture of Health, just as this new technology is poised to hit the mainstream in games and other forms of entertainment.

episode 9


What's the Airbnb for Health?

In this episode we explore the potential for the collaborative economy (aka “the sharing economy”) to change how we engage with and experience health and health care; we reimagine medical education, where new online models are powering collaboration within and between medical schools, and we learn how “agile science” seeks to use research to spur discovery and adoption of healthy behavior change; and we hear one grantee’s personal vision of a Culture of Health where everyone has access to their personal health data. Guests include Visionary author and TED speaker Rachel Botsman, RWJF program officer Hilary HeishmanDirector of the Designing Health Lab at Arizona State University Eric Hekler, and RWJF senior program officers Paul Tarini and Mike Painter. Grantee guests include Khan Academy’s Rishi Desai, co-founder of Osmosis Shiv GaglaniStanford Medicine professor and physician Charles Prober, co-founder of Quantified Self Labs Gary Wolf, and several students involved in pilot programs from these grantees, including participants of RWJF’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

episode 8


Wellness in a Networked World

In this networked world, what are the implications for health and health care? In this episode we explore how technology can promote well-being by connecting us to our essential self; what our knowledge of social relationships—and social media—can mean for how we design our communities; and how institutions can create organizational cultures where health and socially conscious innovation thrive. Guests include RWJF chief technology and information officer Steve Downs, director and founder of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab Rosalind PicardRWJF grantees Nicholas Christakis and Eric Klinenberg, RWJF entrepreneur-in-residence Susannah Fox, and visionary writer and speaker Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

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

How 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 Swarthmore 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.