Michelle Sou, Fung Fellow
Like many Fung Fellows at UC Berkeley, Jenny Shearer and I are always looking for new ways to expand our skills and knowledge beyond the academic settings of lecture halls and classrooms. So when the Fung Fellowship staff presented an exciting opportunity from Stanford Medicine X, we couldn’t help but apply to the Youth Changemakers program, a weekend dedicated to the development of health interventions.
On September 17th and 18th, Jenny and I, along with Fellows Marycon Jiro and Anna Cardenas, traveled across the bay to spend the weekend working with ambitious students from universities across California to develop social entrepreneurship solutions to health challenges.
After a series of development workshops and guest speakers, we each reflected on health challenges we were passionate about and self-selected teams to develop solutions. Our dream team formed: Jenny Shearer, a molecular and cell biology major, and myself, a public health major, came together with Samir Akre, Vincent Fateh, and Yimeng Dou, all biomedical engineers from UC Davis to create Maia. The weekend culminated in a pitch competition in front of a judging panel of three health experts.
We pitched our idea of a mobile application that aims to engage children with a chronic illness in their own health care by gamifying the responsibilities of being their own health advocate. We won the pitch competition and were invited to pitch again on the main stage of the Med X Conference.
Getting up on stage at the Medicine X Summit was nerve-wracking, but in that brief minute, we looked out and saw an entire audience of health professionals and patients nodding in agreement and excitement as we talked about how important it was to ease the transition from pediatric to adult care and how Maia was going to help. We even had several audience members come talk to us afterward about our idea; one of them, a practicing pediatrician at Stanford, has since become an influential medical advisor throughout our early stage development of Maia.
Since that mid-September weekend, our team has worked tirelessly to shape Maia into being an essential tool for any child’s transitional care experience. In such a few short months, we’ve become finalists for several competitions, including UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas and presented at conferences such as Youth Tech Health 2017 in San Francisco.
Maia continues to progress- forming a board of advisors, incorporating, and experimenting with revenue models. Additionally, we now have a working prototype that we anticipate testing with focus groups of young adults in the near future. And while Maia has grown and continues to do so, we have also grown into unique roles. Jenny being CEO, myself as Chief of Public Relations, Vincent as the Chief of Business, and Samir and Yimeng as the engineering team.
From this process, I’ve learned so much about navigating the business side of health solutions – it never occurred to me how much went into the “entrepreneurship” part of social entrepreneurship, such as legal agreements about equity and confidentiality of our potential product. Our team has also grown, working through the challenge of communicating effectively with one another about our overall goals and individual tasks. It definitely has made me appreciate the plethora of tools already available to support team product teams. Additionally, without the more figurative tools we learned from our first semester as Fung Fellows, we would not have been able to navigate the teaming and design aspects of this venture as well as we have (post-its and Google Docs are our new best friends, just ask Jenny).
It has definitely been a huge learning experience for me (and the rest of the Maia team I’m sure), and I’m confident that with the support from the Fung Fellowship and Ashoka, Maia’s success will continue to grow.
To learn more about Maia, visit maiahealth.com.