Healthy Meals on Demand, with a Side of Information: Health for America at MedStar Health Fellows Create Service for Type 2 Diabetes Management

WASHINGTON, D.C. —A unique MedStar Health fellowship challenged four young professionals to create an innovative solution for improving outcomes for people living with type 2 diabetes. For 10 months, beginning last September, the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellows, Dan Hoff, Amanda Newman, May Paquete, and Jake Vildibill, immersed themselves in all aspects of the chronic disease, including simulating living with diabetes and eating meals they prepared on a food-stamps budget for two-week periods. After four months of study and interaction with patients and clinicians, the team created WellRooted, a unique food delivery and education service tailored for type 2 diabetes needs.

fellows“The HFA fellows consistently heard about the nutrition challenges people with type 2 diabetes face as we experienced more than 50 educational events, and countless interactions within the healthcare community,” said Amanda. “We recognized an opportunity to bridge an educational gap between clinics and kitchens, while giving people easier access to diabetes-friendly, cost-conscious meals they’ll want to enjoy with others.”

This latest HFA fellowship term ended in July. Two fellows have committed to stay on to help transition WellRooted to its next stage. MedStar continues to offer the service to patients and associates while pursuing a long-term strategy to sustain and grow it withPower Supply, a meal delivery company with hubs in the Washington, D.C., region and California.

WellRooted offers two diabetes-friendly options through its website, wellrootedfoods.com. Cook-at-Home offers free recipes plus an easy connection to affordable ingredient delivery. Ready-to-Eat provides deliveries of fully-prepared meals via Power Supply.

To make it onto WellRooted’s menu, meals must include cultural variety and contain 350-600 calories, 30-60 grams carbohydrates, and less than 750 mg sodium. Cook-at-Home meals contain no more than seven to 12 ingredients and can be cooked within 20-35 minutes. Step-by-step instructions with photos are included, and the recipes use basic cooking equipment and methods. Each recipe comes with “bite size” nutrition education messages. Recipes are free and available on the WellRooted website. Cook-at-Home recipe ingredients cost $6-10 per person per meal, and Ready-to-Eat prepared meals start at $13 per person per meal.

The HFA fellowship program, housed in the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), tackles America’s most pressing healthcare challenges through diverse next-generation talent, innovation, and distinctive learning experiences centered on health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership. HFA was founded in 2012 and integrated into MI2 in 2016. MI2 collaborates with 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based global startup incubator and seed fund, to provide educational, business, and investment opportunities, as well as mentorship and workspace.

HFA fellows work closely with MedStar physicians and other clinical experts. This year’s group was led by Michelle Magee, MD, director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute, based at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Magee and her team piloted WellRooted with patients and associates at the Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

During the upcoming 2016-17 term, HFA fellows will focus on stroke care. The new class arrives in September and will work under the mentorship of Amie W. Hsia, MD, medical director of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Comprehensive Stroke Center; Michael Yochelson, MD, MBA, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital; and William J. Frohna, MD, chairman, MedStar Emergency Physicians. Applications were received from more than 250 young professionals, representing more than 100 U.S. undergraduate institutions and having an average 3.5 on a 4.0 grade point scale. This year’s program had a 2 percent acceptance rate.

By design, the fellows bring diverse academic backgrounds and interests. This year’s class is:

  • Stephanie Guang, a public health-focused biomedical engineer from Brown University
  • Michael Mezher, a bioengineer and aspiring entrepreneur from George Mason University
  • King Pascual, an aspiring mental health physician from Teach for America
  • Ekaterina (Katia) Vlasova, a Watson Fellow who investigated international practices of integrative medicine

“We know that the tyranny of the daily trumps the pursuit of the remarkable, absent a countervailing force,” said Mark Smith, MD, MedStar’s chief innovation officer and director of MI2. “Health for America was created to be such a force. It immerses the best and brightest young professionals in health innovation. Everyone benefits—our patients, the fellows themselves, the whole MedStar Health system, and the greater Washington-Baltimore region. It is an optimistic bet on the future.”

About Health for America The Health for America (HFA) fellowship at MedStar Health inspires the best and brightest young professionals to tackle the nation’s most pressing health challenges through innovation. HFA is embedded in MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) to make a difference on three levels: motivating next-generation leaders to focus on health, creating novel solutions that improve health outcomes, and increasing innovation capacity in the health system. HFA grants fellowships to interdisciplinary talent within three years post-bachelor’s degree and offers unmatched learning experiences that center on health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Learn more at www.healthforamerica.org.

About MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) The MedStar Institute for Innovation is unique among innovation centers that are embedded in health systems. MI2’s approach is to create an innovation ecosystem across MedStar Health that fosters the vast creative talent and energy of its 31,000 associates and 6,000 physicians. MI2 itself has developed deep technical expertise in human factors engineering, health influence and engagement, innovative learning and simulation, and digital health and data science. MI2, chartered in 2008, also serves as the portal for engaging outside startups and entrepreneurial collaborators to apply new ideas and innovative approaches to care for people and advance health. For more information, seemi2.medstarhealth.org.