Words: Georgia Horton | Editor: Mohsin Mohi Ud Din
At Stanford’s Medicine X Summit, hundreds of the country’s leading health experts, teachers, and activists gathered to collaborate and partner on the world’s most pressing health issues. But future and present global health challenges do not just require the attention of adult experts and traditional organizations. Young changemakers have a role to play in securing and progressing the health of societies as well.
At this event, Ashoka Youth Venture’s and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Making More Health Initiative, brought together young changemakers innovating around community health. One of them was Jennifer Shearer, a college student, co-founder, and CEO of Maia Health. Majoring in Molecular Cell Biology at the University of California Berkeley, Jennifer has had internship experiences that have kept her involved in the healthcare system and drawn to revolutionizing the system. She pitched the topic of transitional care to an audience of her peers. In that moment, the youth-led Maia Health team was born, consisting of changemakers Jennifer Shearer, Vincent Fateh, Michelle Sou, Samir Akre, and Yimeng Dou.
The five students did what all changemakers do: they identified a gap in the present system, connected a passion with a problem, and gave themselves permission to lead and act. Jennifer remarks that there were “almost no applications on the market for pediatric patients” which left these individuals unprepared for the next steps on their healthcare journey. This gap is what Maia Health seeks to fill; the online platform hopes to prepare pediatric patients to be their own advocates for their health by teaching patients basic communication skills, health care knowledge, and providing a supportive community for the patient’s ecosystem.
As a rising senior graduating college early, Jennifer works with her team from hundreds of miles away since they are spread between two universities. With all of that, plus the stress of school work and being a young adult, Jennifer still prioritizes Maia Health: “When talking about transition care, a lot of times you can talk about it informally and say “oh, that’s an interesting idea”, but it stays at a surface level conversation. When you talk to someone going through it, you get one of two responses: “Wow! I wish I had heard of this before,” or “Oh my, I have not considered my child’s transition yet [...] and that’s what keeps me going”.
In the next five years, Jennifer sees Maia Health as an online application addressing the needs of pediatric patients aged 12 - 22. These goals do not seem too far out of reach as outreach opportunities have already started: Jennifer and her co-leaders spoke at Youth Tech Health and Caravan Studies Apps4Change this past year.
Jennifer insisted the importance of empathy and problem solving when embarking on a social mission. “Asking questions is a fundamental part of how I lead. I want to understand what feeds into empathy because that impacts our actions, and that’s key to understanding teamwork [...] Concerning transitional care, there are three key stakeholders (the patient, family, and doctor) that you need to relate to, empathize with, and understand how they intersect.” While this seems daunting, Jennifer and her team jumped at the chance. She sees her dedication to transforming the transitional care sector as an “enjoyable challenge.”
Maia Health was selected by Youth Venture and Boehringer Ingelheim as a winner of the Making More Health program at Medicine X. The winning team took to the main stage, standing in front of a room of hundreds of health experts and innovators. How did it go? Watch why they got a standing ovation below...
APPLY TO #MAKINGMOREHEALTH @ #MEDX!
Are you a young health innovator? Want to amplify your changemaker ideas and community engagement? Apply to Boehringer Ingelheim and Youth Venture's Making More Health program NOW! Apply here to join us at this year's #MedX Summit at Stanford Univeristy.
To learn more about Maia Health and the revolutionary work these young changemakers are doing, please see their website.