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Telegram reports on WooHealth Hackathon at UMass Medical School

Nine area colleges, universities unite to brainstorm ways improve public health

UMMS hosted the first WooHealth Hackathon on Nov. 15 and 16.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette was on hand for the first WooHealth Hackathon, hosted by UMass Medical School on Nov. 15 and 16. The event brought together students and faculty from nine area colleges and universities to brainstorm innovative solutions for a public health challenge: how to improve physical access to health care.

“It’s a creative way to get young people together, people with different experiences and different expertise. It’s a pretty wide range of backgrounds,” said Melissa Fischer, MD, MEd, professor of medicine and associate dean for undergraduate medical education, curriculum innovation and the interprofessional Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation at UMass Medical School.

Dr. Fischer spearheaded the event with the Worcester Division of Public Health and its Academic Health Collaborative, which includes Assumption College, Becker College, Clark University, the College of the Holy Cross, MCPHS University, Worcester State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Quinsigamond Community College, in addition to UMass Medical School. About 65 students from the schools along with about 50 faculty and community members attended.

Popularized in the technology sector, hackathons encourage original thinking by engaging a range of community participants in a limited timeframe to spark discussion and drive innovation.  At WooHealth Hack, teams of four to five students representing different members and partners of the Worcester Academic Health Collaborative participated in problem-solving exercises to address a core health need. Central to the hackathon approach, teams availed themselves of technologies and methods including those available in the UMMS iCELS, where they conducted most of their work.

The WooHealth Hackathon culminated with seed funding awards totaling $6,000 for the teams whose winning proposals showed the best potential for impact and were most feasible for implementation, as determined by a multidisciplinary panel of judges.

Read the Telegram article, which includes comments from UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins, and Matilde Castiel, MD, commissioner of the Worcester DPH and professor of medicine at UMMS, here.

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