Childhood Asthma



2013 Summer Health for America Fellowship

Health for America 2013 fellows


Childhood asthma occurs when certain triggers inflame the lungs and airways, making it challenging to breathe. It affects 7 million children (almost 10%) in the United States and is listed as one of the leading causes of emergency department visits.


The Health for America fellows organized #GamifyAsthma, a hackathon-style design challenge that generated prototypes of games intended to help children better manage asthma.

They also conceptualized a device intended to improve medication delivery for children with asthma, and produced a paper documenting the outcomes of their fellowship.

Fellowship Highlights

  • Attended Health DataPalooza and MedCity Engage conferences
  • Partnered with accelerator XLerate Health
  • Visited Children's Hospital Oakland in Oakland, CA and Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC
  • Experienced a workshop at IDEO on childhood asthma


2013 Summer fellows: Abena Dakwahene, Glenn L. Means III and Miki Templeton

Clinical Partner

During the pilot program that took place after Health for America originally launched as a standalone nonprofit, HFA fellows worked with Children’s National Health System to explore solutions for pediatric asthma management and medication delivery.

Children's National Health System

Congestive Heart Failure



2014-2015 Health for America Fellowship

Health for America heart fellows


Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) occurs when the heart does not pump blood effectively to the body, either because the heart is too stiff or too weak to fill and pump efficiently. It affects about 5 million people in the United States, primarily in adults over the age of 65.


The Health for America fellows developed Meerkat Health, a thin scale that fits seamlessly under a bathmat at home, intended to help people with heart failure better detect and manage fluid buildup.

Fellowship Highlights

  • Attending mHealth Summit, Heart Failure Society of America, South by Southwest (SXSW), Mobile World Congress, HxRefactored, and Connected Health Symposium conferences
  • Partaking in an IDEO Design Workshop, Lean Startup Weekend, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Innovation Workshop
  • Shadowing clinicians, interviewing patients and hospital administrators, and speaking with healthcare entrepreneurs and policy makers
  • Prototyping, user testing, and iterating on the Meerkat solution to improve CHF outcomes


2014-2015 HFA fellows: Nick Azpiroz, Megan Caldwell, Sandra Hwang and Ellen Kourakos

Key Deliverables

Final Portfolio

Clinical Partner

Prior to the integration of Health for America into the MedStar Institute for Innovation, the 2014-15 HFA fellows worked with Christiana Care Health System to address challenges related to congestive heart failure.

Christiana Care Health System

Type 2 Diabetes



2015-2016 Health for America Fellowship

Health for America diabetes mentors and fellows


Type 2 diabetes is a progressive metabolic condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use insulin effectively. It affects 29 million Americans and has resulted in $245 billion in costs to the economy.


The fellows and their partners co-created WellRooted, a diet management and nutrition literacy tool that enabled people living with type 2 diabetes to order diabetes-friendly meals straight to their doorsteps. The online platform offered two menus: Cook-at-Home (recipes + ingredient delivery) and Ready-to-Eat (deliveries of fully-prepared meals). In an effort to connect clinics to kitchens, the WellRooted website and recipe cards also provided bite-sized, actionable nutrition education.

In May 2017, MedStar Health announced that WellRooted was being refined and transformed into MedStar Healthy. Designed to support the overall wellness of patients and the broader MedStar community, provides easy connections to fully-prepared meals and recipes that meet MedStar nutritional recommendations, as well as links to wellness classes throughout the system. The launch of the program also marks a strengthened partnership with Territory, a locally-launched prepared meal service. MedStar Healthy is among one of Territory's first recently unveiled nutritionally-focused menu filters, making it easier for the MedStar network and general consumers to order meals deemed "MedStar Healthy."

Fellowship Highlights

  • Attending Cleveland Clinic Innovation Summit, Diabetes Tech Society Meeting, mHealth Summit, MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) Innovations Forum, South by Southwest Interactive, Startup Grind Conference, World Diabetes Congress, and more
  • Partaking in Global Startup Weekend
  • Conducting a two-week diabetes simulation to understand some of the pain points of managing a chronic disease
  • Interviewing and shadowing a range of stakeholders in the diabetes landscape—patients, caregivers, clinicians, administrators, researchers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, executives, and others
  • Presenting WellRooted at the MI2 Monthly All Minds Meeting and Making Health Event, for an Innovation Learning Network Virtual Thursday webinar, and in many clinical settings


2015-2016 HFA fellows: Dan Hoff, Amanda Newman, May Paquete and Jake Vildibill
2015-2016 physician mentor: Dr. Michelle Magee

Key Deliverables

Landscape Analysis

Ideation Deliverable

Final Portfolio




2016-2017 Health for America Fellowship

2016-2017 fellows and mentors


Stroke is a disease and type of brain injury resulting from an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the top preventable cause of disability, according to the "2016 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update" released by the American Heart Association and other sources.


Stroke has prevention, detection, and rehabilitation components, and ties to issues of aging, mobility, and mental health. The 2016-17 HFA fellows began the program in mid-September, focusing on the full continuum of stroke care, including before, during, and after stroke. As a result of a unique program pivot, the 2016-17 fellows piloted two solutions in their implementation phase. See below for executive summaries of Galva, the fellows' solution to better support the hospital-to-home transition for stroke survivors and caregivers, and KnightCap, a smart sleep mask that monitors for wake-up stroke. (Note: These represent past MedStar pilots vs. current offerings.)



Fellowship Highlights

  • Attending MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) Innovations Forum, Connected Health Conference, Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit, Lean Startup Week, South by Southwest Interactive, International Stroke Conference, and more.
  • Conducting a series of stroke simulations to better understand and empathize with stroke prevention, detection, treatment, and rehabilitation.
  • Interviewing, shadowing, and collaborating with a range of stakeholders in the stroke landscape—patients, caregivers, clinicians, administrators, researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs, executives, and others.

Visit the HFA blog for more on the fellows’ journey to make a difference throughout the exploration, ideation, and implementation phases of the program.


2016-17 HFA fellows: Stephanie Guang, Michael Mezher, King John Pascual, and Ekaterina Vlasova
2016-17 HFA physician mentors: Drs. Bill Frohna, Amie Hsia and Michael Yochelson

Key Deliverables

Final Portfolio

Stroke Simulation Case Study

Stroke Infographic

Landscape Analysis Summary

Landscape Analysis

Clinical Partner & Permanent Home of HFA

MedStar Health logo

Telehealth and Integrative Medicine



2017-2018 Health for America Fellowship

Renee and Sharon


The 2017-18 fellows are individually embedded within “internal startup” teams working with MI2 to support and explore opportunities within two priority focus areas: integrative medicine and telehealth.


The fellows will work closely with MedStar colleagues and mentors in these domains, dividing their time between working on assigned projects and proposing new areas for impact.

Fellowship Highlights

  • In-depth learning with MedStar teams, including shadowing, simulations, and research
  • Local and national conference opportunities
  • Professional development resources, including mentorship from experts within MedStar and 1776


Renee Kakareka and Sharon Rodriguez

About the Fellowship



Program Overview

MI2 with Ken Samet

Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellows are assigned individually to an “internal startup” working with the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), a new model effective as of September 2017. They split their time between serving ongoing needs for their assigned team, as well as completing the HFA curriculum in an effort to create a solution that improves outcomes in their domain. HFA’s curriculum focuses on four program pillars—health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership—and is organized into three phases—exploration, ideation, and implementation. Physician, executive, clinical, and other expert mentors also guide the fellows through this work.

Additionally, the HFA program is supported by 1776, a public benefit corporation that empowers startup ecosystems around the world to solve complex challenges. 1776 provides fellows with educational and business opportunities, as well as mentorship and workspace.

HFA fellows traditionally spend the majority of their time working from MI2 or another MedStar facility, and at least 1-2 days each week working from 1776.

By giving fellows unique access to MedStar’s clinical environments, experts, and other benefits focused on “what’s next” in innovation, HFA mixes the best of theory and practice to help realize MI2’s foundational principle that for health care to be transformed, we must also look outside our own walls—and those of our traditional collaborators.

Health for America



Health for America

Health for America at MedStar Health

Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health activates rising talent to help invent the future of health.

The 11-month HFA fellowship immerses top graduates within three years post bachelor’s degree in hands-on learning and innovation work centered on health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

The HFA program is embedded in the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) to make a difference on three levels:


Motivate rising talent to focus on health.


Create solutions that improve outcomes.


Increase innovation capacity in the health system.

Connect With Us

Read the HFA Blog

Hear from HFA fellows and other supporters who regularly blog about their work.

Interested in Applying?

HFA typically opens recruitment in January. Sign up for our email list to receive news updates.

Get Involved

Contact HFA Director Mandy Dorn to learn about supporting HFA.

Our Work

Four Pillars



Program Themes

Four fellows

Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health’s rigorous curriculum was designed to help fellows develop actionable skills and knowledge across the following four program pillars:

HFA provides insights into the uniquely complicated, highly regulated healthcare ecosystem, which requires innovators to navigate complex business models, a multitude of stakeholders, and clinical validation.

HFA fellows learn how to leverage design thinking techniques (e.g., shadowing, simulation) to build solutions “with and not for” end users, incorporating their input and improving care outcomes.

HFA offers training in lean startup principles and other creative techniques that are essential to innovating in highly complex care delivery systems.

HFA facilitates the development of individual leadership skills, provides a toolkit to develop and achieve goals, and assists fellows in creating a compelling personal brand.

Three Phases



Program Timeline

Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health's learning is organized into three phases, enabling fellows to prioritize deep dives into select content and report on their progress at meaningful milestones in the fellowship.

Shadowing, interviews, simulation, and continuous research are signature activities of this phase, which culminates in the creation of a landscape analysis report. The report distills key lessons about the domain, relevant companies, and areas of need/opportunity, shaping the fellows’ transition into the ideation phase.

This phase invites brainstorming, testing, and iterating top solution ideas, all while gathering and integrating stakeholder feedback. It concludes with an ideation report summarizing key activities and lessons from the fellows’ work on their top ideas, and identifying the solution each fellow will implement for the remainder of the program.

Fellows refine solutions into more polished prototypes during the implementation phase and work with internal and/or external partners to develop plans for sustaining this work. The final portfolio showcases their process and outcomes.

Health for America phases




Our Story

Health for America leaders with fellows

Health for America (HFA) started as a standalone nonprofit in 2012, co-founded by Madhura Bhat, who holds an MBA, an MPH, and an MA in Communications, and Dr. Kapil Parakh, a cardiologist who currently works at Google and leads efforts on improving the search experience around health. Their goal was to accelerate the pace of health innovation, while shaping the next generation of leaders who otherwise may not have an opportunity to innovate in such a focused and meaningful way early in their careers. They also wanted to give this rising talent the right educational foundation in health broadly, as well as human-centered design and lean startup methodology.

In January 2016, MedStar Health expanded its commitments to innovation and education by making HFA an ongoing fellowship program within the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2). “As soon as we became fully engaged with the program, we knew that it belonged at MedStar Health full-time, aligned with the mission of MI2 to catalyze innovation that advances health,” says Mark Smith, MD, chief innovation officer of MedStar Health and director of MI2. Read more in the related press release.

Since its inception, HFA has shaped the early careers of 17 innovators in collaboration with 1776 and other supporters, building and engaging with a nationwide network in the process. Over the years, fellows have developed a wide range of health solutions, including a game design challenge to benefit children with asthma; a low-cost remote monitoring solution for individuals with congestive heart failure; a unique food delivery and education service serving people with type 2 diabetes; and stroke care innovations that address wake-up stroke and patient education and wellness challenges.

HFA was honored with the Dewey Winburne Community Service Award at South by Southwest® in 2013, among other awards the fellows have won for their work.