Catalyze Innovation that Advances Health

Making Health

Panoramic Room


On June 23, 2016 MedStar Health, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services IDEA Lab, and National Institutes of Health(NIH) co-hosted Making Health: An Interactive Celebration of How Tinkering, Technology and Design Tools are Transforming Health Care. This exciting event, as part of the White House National Week of Making, showcased how healthcare practitioners, patients, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other tinkerers are creating healthcare solutions by transforming an idea from a quick sketch to a working prototype. Making Health was open to anyone interested in learning how the democratization of technology has led to the maker movement in health care (See James Fallows article in The Atlantic: Why the Maker Movement Matters). The focus was primarily on creating physical objects to help people live more independently, in better health, and with greater dignity.

Making Health with Susannah Fox
Chief Technology Officer
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services IDEA Lab


Over 275 MedStar associates and health leaders participated the afternoon event, engaging with over 30 exhibit tables representing over 100 examples of physical solutions and inventions in healthcare. Examples came from MedStar entities and the FDA, NIH, Walter Reed, VA, Smithsonian Institute, Children’s National Hospital, educational nonprofits, startup incubators and others. Tables provided individuals with the opportunity to create a spinning light machine that draws on paper, listen to Yoko Sen’s work in human-centered sound design, try on sensors, create a 3-d printed object, test a concussion screener, touch historical medical devices, hear from young people, and more.

Making Health Exhibit 1Making Health Exhibit 2Making Health Exhibit 3


Throughout the duration of the event, several speakers explained their exhibits in more detail. These speakers included Arthur Daemmrich, Director of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation; John Rockwood, President of the MedStar National Rehabilitation Network; James Coburn, Senior Research Engineer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Anna Young, Co-Founder of MakerHealth; and more. The day successfully concluded with speeches from Mark Smith, Chief Innovation Officer at MedStar Health and Director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation; and Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.


The event also provided information about resources and services offered by the organizations; and other tools and web sites on making. Click below for a list of some resources for you to make.


Responses to Making Health were overwhelmingly positive. In their feedback, a number of attendees reported having learned new information and made helpful connections (and reconnections), and are planning followup meetings, pilots, workshops, products, or internships. Comments included:

  • “Intriguing”
  • “Great diversity in the projects and ideas”
  • “Exciting”
  • “Great show!  I really enjoyed seeing all the ideas and products, and found it interesting to chat with other innovators."
  • “Inspiring”
  • “I loved the informal and interactive format”
  • “Everyone was there to make the health system better and more efficient."
  • “Innovative”
  • “VERY eclectic crowd”
  • “Great speakers!”
  • "Some really great stuff happening in the semi-rogue spheres of health care."