Hacking Health @ Yale does a body good

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Students working at Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, one of the sites for Hacking Health @ Yale.

Yale University is about to hack the health care system.

From Friday to Sunday, Oct. 10-12, teams of doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and experts from other fields will muster their collective creativity to tackle a laundry list of health care challenges. Called “Hacking Health @ Yale,” the event will look at everything from patient care to medical devices.

“We want people to come in with any health-related idea under the sun,” said Jean Zheng, engineering director for Yale’s Center for Biomedical and Interventional Technology (CBIT), which is organizing the hackathon in collaboration with InnovateHealth Yale, the Innovation in Medicine Club, and the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID). “We’ll assemble teams to address those issues in a high-energy, high-intensity environment.”

In keeping with its interdisciplinary approach, Hacking Health @ Yale will take place at three locations. It begins at 6 p.m. on Oct. 10, with an official kick-off, introductions, and a “pitch-fest” at Yale School of Medicine. The pitch session, featuring an open-mic format, is where participants will suggest specific problems and challenges in the health care system that need attention.

No one will know the problems or solutions in advance. “That’s the beauty of a hackathon,” Zheng said. “It allows so much room for creativity and exploration.”

From there, teams will dive into a concentrated period of trying to find answers at the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design. Hacking commences at 1 p.m. on Oct. 11, with a “sanity check” later in the afternoon. The teams will have a full complement of tools and equipment, including a 3D printer, at their disposal to test ideas and create prototypes.

The hackathon wraps up with a solution pitch session and an awards presentation on Oct. 12 at the Yale School of Management.

“To me, this is the beginning of a new era of entrepreneurship at Yale, in the medical space,” said Paula Wu, a second-year student at Yale School of Medicine, and one of the event’s organizers. “A hackathon focuses on the fact that anyone can have a great idea. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tenured professor or someone whose parent was just in the hospital.”

Indeed, many of today’s young innovators have embraced the hackathon concept because of how it combines the speed of technology with the thrill of competitive collaboration. Hacking Health @ Yale will include radiologists, OB/GYNs, public health specialists, medical students, science and engineering students, law students, artists and designers, and young entrepreneurs.

Christopher Loose, CBIT’s executive director, said the opportunity to develop new medical technology is particularly promising at Yale. “It is the perfect setting for clinicians, engineers, and business people to learn how to work together to create high impact biomedical products,” Loose explained.

The accent on multiple sites and disciplines also will give the Yale event a unique flavor, according to the organizers. The emphasis will be on succinct, rapid-fire presentations.

“With less than 48 hours to devise prototypes, there isn’t a lot of time to burn,” Zheng said.

And for once, hacking will be the solution to health problems, not a symptom.

For more information about Hacking Health @ Yale, visit the website.

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Media Contact

Jim Shelton: james.shelton@yale.edu, 203-361-8332