Engaging Top College Students in Transforming Health and Health Care

Jul 25, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF

College students have been the visionaries behind a number of game-changing innovations in recent years, from Facebook to RWJF grantee Health Leads (if you aren’t familiar with Health Leads, I highly recommend you check out their model). So if the next big idea that completely transforms health and health care in this country comes from someone under the age of 22, we here at Pioneer won’t be surprised.

And we’re doing our part to speed things along. I’m thrilled to share that we recently awarded a grant to Princeton University’s Keller Center, whose mission is to educate leaders for a technology-driven society. The Center will use this funding to offer courses on health care entrepreneurship, as well as to partner with Woodrow Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing on a Global Health Policy Scholars program.

"If there's a market that's more important than health care to the real lives and wellbeing of people both here and around the globe, that is more screwed up and in need of fundamental innovation and fresh socially-conscious entrepreneurial thinking, I don't know what it is," said John Danner, a visiting professor at the Keller Center who will be teaching a course on entrepreneurship and the health care system.

Danner said the goal of the new class is to offer students from across the Princeton campus "a hands-on and minds-open way of addressing some of the fundamental health and health care challenges."

The scholars program represents “a chance to get students at Princeton engaged in the issue of U.S. health and health care and to get them to put their ideas, skills and talents into a problem of great importance,” says Sanjeev Kulkarni, an electrical engineering professor and the director of the Keller Center.

Alektra Alivisatos, a member of the first class of scholars, is exploring ways to use the school environment to improve nutrition. The scholars program “has allowed me to truly immerse myself in the topic,” she said.

I can’t wait to see what she and the other scholars come up with.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.