U-M innovation competition challenges students to tackle public health problems

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EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT

DATE: 3-5 p.m. Friday, March 14, 2014.

EVENT: Eleven University of Michigan student teams will be narrowed down to five at "Innovation in Action: Solutions to Public Health Challenges."

The event, which includes a special presentation by poet and inspirational speaker Sekou Andrews, is an inaugural student competition for the newly formed Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Initiative at the U-M School of Public Health. Andrews, winner of two National Poetry Slams, was recently referred to as the "de facto poet laureate of corporate America" by Forbes.com.

For the competition, multidisciplinary student teams proposed solutions to public health problems under three themes: detecting disease and risk control, empowering the underserved, and technology-enabled health and wellness.

One winning proposal will be chosen for each of the themes, with the teams receiving $2,500. A single innovation will be picked as the grand-prize winner, and that team will get to present its concept a day later at the TEDxUofM Labs event at U-M's Power Center.

"Many of our students now come into the School of Public Health with an interest in social entrepreneurship," said Vic Strecher, professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. "They understand that innovative new businesses and products can help others while also helping to develop economies. Through strong interactions with other schools at the U-M, we're stimulating innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in these future health professionals."

Student teams tackled such topics as healthy eating, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, breastfeeding and youth violence. One project featured an app that offered families of surgical patients updates on their loved one, some activities to help pass the time during surgery, and important pre- and post-op care instructions and demonstrations. Others focused on consumer-owned health insurance, designed to help business owners manage adverse life events; a mobile app that encourages people to earn money for a nonprofit by completing fitness challenges; and products that help patients and their families get all of their questions answered by the doctor and provide demonstrations of important pre- and post-operative care for surgical patients.

"These pathways to innovation were not always obvious to our students," said Ann Verhey-Henke, associate director of innovation and entrepreneurship at the School of Public Health. "This represents a year-long opportunity for students to go from the seed of an idea to an incubated concept that may have potential to continue its development into the marketplace in the future."

The final five entries will be judged by an external team of experts, including Steve Bloom, managing partner of Tallwoods Partners; Jan Garfinkle, founder and managing partner of Arboretum Ventures; Edward Lanphier, president and CEO of Sangamo Biosciences; and Sam Shekar, Northrop Gruman's chief medical officer.

Schools and colleges involved included the School of Public Health; School of Information; College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Ford School of Public Policy; Medical School; School of Nursing; College of Engineering; Ross School of Business; School of Natural Resources and Environment; Stamps School of Art & Design; International Institute; and Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies.

PLACE: U-M School of Public Health Building II, Room M1020, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor

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