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From Medical Student to MIT-Harvard Health Innovation Bootcamper

Check out Shreya Chawla's story below, and let's help her get to the MIT-Harvard Health Innovation Bootcamp! Read her story, contribute if possible, spread the news!

Around two weeks ago I submitted my application to the MIT-Harvard Medical School Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp more out of a simple curiosity rather than actually expecting to get in. With former boot-campers including 5 members of Forbes 30 under 30, the scientist behind “Dolly the Sheep” and various entrepreneurs from all over the world, I, as a 19-year-old 3rd-year medical student, just simply didn’t expect to be accepted.

However, yesterday I received my acceptance letter to this program that not only aims to teach you the skills of innovation and entrepreneurship needed to successfully launch your own venture but also aims to challenge and test the limits of your own capabilities to develop yourself as an innovator. Now as always learning these skills comes at a cost; our first mission for the boot camp is to manage to fundraise our tuition; I need to be able to pay the full tuition of $8500 by May and deposit $2000 of that amount in the next two weeks (by 30/03). To do this MIT had encouraged us to reach out to various industry and academic sources and use it as a challenge to overcome as an innovator. As I am a student and given my personal financial circumstances, unfortunately, I can’t fund my own place. I’m therefore writing this open letter to all those may care about health innovation and try to convince you to put faith in a medical student.

Who am I

As mentioned, I am a 3rd-year medical student at King’s College London and I am also the President of King’s MedTech. I have always been incredibly passionate about health innovation and attempted to disseminate this through various activities such as organising the largest student-led National MedTech Conference with companies such as Microsoft, DeepMind, IBM; organising programming and machine learning courses for students, and most recently, launching a business development in healthcare course.

My motivation to promote health innovation has been my first-hand experience of the overstraining of health systems, not only in the UK, but in my clinical experience in Brazil, India, and Belgium as well. For years skills of innovation and entrepreneurship have been monopolised by subjects such as engineering, business, computer science but it is my belief that if we are to build a sustainable system delivering the best outcomes for patients, we need innovative doctors too; with the skills and expertise to implement technologies and systemic changes based on patient centred outcomes and care.

Why innovation is essential in healthcare

Turn on the news and the first thing you will probably hear about is how the health system is under strain. Frankly, it’s true! We have a health system founded in 1948 that simply isn’t fit for the challenges we face today; with an ageing population, rising co-morbidities and chronic conditions, more cash infusion simply isn’t going to resolve much of the big problems we face today.

Technology and industry move much faster than medicine; a key reason for this is they have innovation on their side. Technology is not a be all and end all solution, but it is one that will increase efficiency and take doctors away from the tedious admin tasks and back to the patients. Although I was always passionate about engineering and innovation; I chose to study medicine because I wanted to first understand the problems that plague the industry and aim to find solutions to existing problems rather the other way around.

When considering health innovation our minds may directly jump to Artificial Intelligence being used to diagnose cancer or blockchain being used to store patient records, but we may not realise that one of the biggest issues that no one is even talking about is interoperability - we’re in a system where the various IT systems in the NHS don’t even talk to each other. Yes, it’s a lot less sexy than “AI” or “Big Data” but try being junior doctor on a full day shift and trying to rack your brains to figure out which system to use to access specific patient information; or for example how, in my experience when I was trying to collect data on surgical outcomes for an audit and struggled every time because each patient had information relating to their past medical history, current medical conditions and surgical outcomes in ten different places.

This is not something you would think is so important as a bystander but as a health professional the accumulation of these inefficiencies turn into a burden on delivering successful patient care. This brings me to the conclusion that we must equip doctors and other health professionals to both identify the clinical needs and be trained to innovate in and improve the health system if we wish to understand and solve the most pressing issues.

Why this Bootcamp matters

The MIT-Harvard Medical School Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp is unique because it recognises the difference in innovation in healthcare compared to other fields and the need to adapt to the rules and regulations to improve patient care. Simultaneously, in one week it aims to provide bootcampers with experience healthcare entrepreneurs face in 1-2 years of a new venture. Being in this global community of entrepreneurs and being taught by renowned coaches including Harvard and MIT alumni across the health innovation and entrepreneurship will teach me invaluable skills I hope to apply to the health system and my own venture on my return.

If I am lucky to receive enough sponsorship for this program I hope to return and disseminate these skills to my peers and fellow health professionals to truly enhance the digitisation and improvement of healthcare as I have done previously through King’s MedTech. We observe the NHS moving forward trying to implement programs such as the “NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs” program or more recently, the “Topol programme for Digital Fellowships” and I truly wish to be a part of “preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future”.

If you believe that the health system needs an infusion of sustainable medical innovation and skills to empower data-driven and digitally-minded services, please do consider sponsoring me as I start this journey through this healthcare innovation bootcamp.

Supplementary Info and Contact:

  • About me: I am an academically-minded student, from having won awards in school from the European Commission for achieving the top results in Biology, Chemistry, Physics in my Baccalaureate to recently being nominated for the Wolfson Scholarship as one of the top 5 academically ranked students in my medical school. This summer I have also been offered a position as research trainee and will be focusing on the use of AI analytics to improve neurosurgical outcomes. Finally, I have been an active member of encouraging health innovation through my role in King’s MedTech and being involved in organisations such as Entrepreneurship Institute and One HealthTech.Please share this with any contacts that may be interested and able to help; I have to submit the deposit of $2000 by 30/03/2019 have until May to raise the remaining $6500; I would be extremely grateful for any help and would gladly offer to share the skills learnt as a part of the program.

  • Please find my linkedin here: and my email: if you would like to get in touch to discuss this further.


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