Health for America | MedStar Institute for Innovation | MedStar Health

Health for America at MedStar Health

Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health, a past fellowship program embedded in the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) from 2015 to 2018, aimed to activate rising talent to help invent the future of health.

About us

The 11-month HFA fellowship immersed top graduates within three years post bachelor’s degree in hands-on learning and innovation work centered on the program’s four pillars—health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership—throughout the exploration, ideation, and implementation program phases.

HFA sought 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

HFA started as a standalone nonprofit in 2012, co-founded by Madhura Bhat and Dr. Kapil Parakh. In January 2016, MedStar Health expanded its commitments to innovation and education by making HFA a fellowship program within MI2. 

The HFA program concluded in mid-2018 after shaping the early careers of 17 innovators, in addition to benefiting the many collaborators that made it possible. Learn more about them and their work below.

Past fellowships

2017-2018: Integrative medicine and telehealth


The 2017-18 fellows were embedded within internal startup teams at MI2 to support and explore opportunities in integrative medicine and telehealth. The fellows worked closely with MedStar Health colleagues and mentors in these domains, dividing their time between working on assigned projects and proposing new areas for impact. 

Fellows: Renee Kakareka (integrative medicine) and Sharon Rodriguez (telehealth) 

Primary mentors: Dr. Ethan Booker and Bill Sheahan for telehealth; Paul Plsek and Dr. Emily Ratner for integrative medicine

2016-2017: Stroke


The fellows worked with teams from the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Comprehensive Stroke Center and the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital to explore the prevention, detection, and rehabilitation dimensions of stroke.

The 2016-17 fellows piloted two solutions in their implementation phase: Galva, the fellows' solution to better support the hospital-to-home transition for stroke survivors and caregivers, and KnightCap, a smart sleep mask intended to monitor for wake-up stroke. (Note: These represent past pilots vs. current offerings.)

Fellows: Stephanie Guang, Michael Mezher, King John Pascual, and Ekaterina Vlasova

Primary mentors: Drs. Bill Frohna, Amie Hsia, and Michael Yochelson

2015-2016: Type 2 diabetes


The fellows worked with the MedStar Diabetes Institute and its patients and caregivers regarding diabetes prevention, education, and management. 

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. 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 community, provided easy connections to recipes, fully prepared meals in a pilot partnership with Territory, and MedStar Health wellness classes. In mid-2020, the site evolved to focus more generally on MedStar Health recommended recipes and wellness classes and remained a resource for the community.

Fellows: Dan Hoff, Amanda Newman, May Paquete, and Jake Vildibill

Primary mentor: Dr. Michelle Magee

2014-2015: Congestive heart failure


In exploring congestive heart failure, the fellows developed Meerkat Health, a thin scale fitting seamlessly under a bath mat at home. It was intended to help people with heart failure better detect and manage fluid buildup.

Fellows: Nick Azpiroz, Megan Caldwell, Sandra Hwang, and Ellen Kourakos

Primary mentors: The fellows partnered with Christiana Care Health System when HFA was a standalone nonprofit.

2013: Childhood asthma

Childhood Asthma

As part of an initial HFA summer pilot program, the fellows explored solutions for pediatric asthma management and medication delivery. They 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.

Fellows: Abena Dakwahene, Glenn L. Means III, and Miki Templeton

Primary mentors: The fellows partnered with Children’s National Health System when HFA was a standalone nonprofit.

Other leaders and collaborators

Members of the HFA leadership team at MI2 included Jeff Collins, Mandy Dorn, Leatt Gilboa, John Lock, Amanda Newman, and Dr. Mark Smith. 

Additionally, HFA was supported by a nationwide network of mentors and other collaborators, including 1776, providing fellows with education and collaboration opportunities, as well as mentorship and workspace.