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Carle Illinois Health Make-A-Thon addresses racism as a health crisis

1/11/2021

Beth Hart, CIMED

Carle Illinois College of Medicine students and community members explored innovative solutions to address racism as a health crisis during the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s fall Health Make-A-Thon.  Eight teams participated in the annual event held Saturday, December 5, 2020. Bioengineering freshman and cancer scholar Sohom Dash was part of the team that placed second in the competition with their idea, CrisisVR. 

A slide presented by CrisisVR on engaging VR in role-playing simulations.
A slide presented by CrisisVR on engaging VR in role-playing simulations.

The event gave a voice to a wide range of proposals, from culturally inclusive clothing for healthcare workers, to developing an app linking health consumers with health advocates to overcome barriers in healthcare delivery and inspired action.

Teams made up of Carle Illinois medical students, engineering students, healthcare professionals, and community members researched and developed their product plans, then pitched those ideas in a virtual ‘dolphin tank.’ A panel of judges who evaluated the projects and awarded first-, second-, and third-place prizes. Bioengineering professor and chief diversity officer at Carle Illinois, Stephen Boppart, served as a dolphin tank judge. 

Top Awards:

  • The first-place award went to the team that proposed the ProteCKD kidney function pre-screening kit. Statistics show people of color are at higher risk for developing kidney disease without being aware of those risks. The pre-screening kit would include a low-cost home urine test strip and educational materials to empower people to make good choices and take charge of their own healthcare. Team members: Carle Illinois medical students Ariana Barreau, Andrew Chang, and Phani Gaddipati; engineering student Priya Kumar and Isabella Lebovic; healthcare provider Sana Kamdar; and community member Thomas Chow.  Prize: $5,000
  • Second place went to the group that proposed a virtual reality training program (named CrisisVR) to enhance police officers’ psychosocial skills and cultural sensitivity when dealing with people who are experiencing behavioral health issues. Team members: Carle Illinois medical students Al Smith, Kenny Lueng, and Alex Teague; engineering students Christopher George, Milica Barac, and Sohom Dash; and community member Sarah Nixon. Prize: $3,000
  • Third place was awarded to the team that proposed C-U Empowered, a broad-based health mentoring training program for community members, medical students, healthcare experts, and community mentors. Team members: Carle Illinois medical students Bailey MacInnis and Manaka Sato; engineering students Anisa Choksi, Daria Wendell, and Aman Dhoraje; healthcare provider Nicolas Rawson; and community member Karen Simms. Prize: $2,000

Carle Illinois Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation Ruby Mendenhall challenged teams to look beyond the surface in examining barriers to health and healthcare resources.

The fall Health Make-A-Thon was limited to members of the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana community. It sets the stage for the larger spring event, which is open to anyone in Illinois who has an innovative, broad-based solution to improve health or healthcare. Proposals are due on January 22, 2021. Twenty finalists will pitch their ideas during a live virtual ‘dolphin tank’ session on Saturday, April 17, 2021. A panel of judges will choose ten winners to receive $10,000 each in expert support for developing a working prototype. Any Illinoisan can enter by submitting a proposal here. For more information on the rules of the competition, click here.