There are many in our community who share Southwestern Medical Foundation’s vision to advance public health by creating opportunities for change. Health Wildcatters, a local company that backs health care startup firms, hosts an annual Texas Health Care Challenge hackathon. These hackathons are weekend-long events that bring professionals and students alike together to tackle some of the health care industry’s biggest pain points. Recently, the company hosted its second hackathon specifically catered to women innovators, the WISH (Women in Science and Health Care) hackathon. This year, the idea that took top honors was sparked by the need to cut costs for diabetes care.

Southwestern Medical Foundation is a proud sponsor of the WISH hackathon. We feel privileged to be a part of this important initiative by Health Wildcatters to disrupt the health care industry and find innovative solutions in health care.

We had the opportunity to discuss the inspiring work of some of this year’s WISH hackathon participants, including Jane Pham, who was on the team “DiabEZ.” Her team was the first place finalist, presenting an innovative, patch-based solution to diabetes care.

An Interview with Jane Pham: From “DiabEZ”

Q: What motivated you to participate in the Health Wildcatters WISH hackathon?

A: I decided to participate in the Health Wildcatters WISH Hackathon to see how far I can stretch my aspiration to bring better healthcare access to people in the United States.

I encountered a strange “occurrence” when I took my mom to a primary care doctor’s office recently. Under her newly joined company-sponsored health care plan, she had to pay a whopping $150 every time she visited a primary care doctor until the out-of-pocket expenses of $7,000 were met. Whereas I only need to pay $20 under my student health plan. As a consequence, occasionally, my mother has decided to skip the doctor’s office to save the extra dollars. In her words, most of her friends act in a similar fashion unless they can no longer bear the illnesses. 

Three of the Team DiabEZ members join together on the final night to watch other team’s presentations

Troubled with the reality, I decided to take a class in health care management at the University of Texas at Dallas to find out for myself the issues faced by the U.S. health care system. Dr. Michael Malaise, the instructor of the course, has given me so much more understanding about the number of problems the U.S. health care system is dealing with and the amount of improvements people are making to change the system. He is an inspiration that the future generation of the U.S. can contribute to better health in our beloved country. 

When I saw a post for the Health Wildcatters WISH 2022 Challenge, I immediately knew that this was the platform for me to meet like-minded individuals and learn from professionals in the field. I am extremely happy that I have participated in the competition.

When I saw a post for the Health Wildcatters WISH 2022 Challenge, I immediately knew that this was the platform for me to meet like-minded individuals and learn from professionals in the field.

Jane Pham

Q: How did you decide to pick your team?

A: I decided to pick my team on two factors; the feasibility of the idea, and the quality of the teammates. 

I wrote down three ideas that were presented that day. Then I approached each of the presenters to discuss their vision. From there, I eliminated two of the ideas. One of them already has a lot of effort made; the other was too broad to be carried out. 

I tried to see among the teams what everyone’s background was and if I could make up any missing spots. Luckily, the idea and the team that I ended up with were a perfect fit!

Team DiabEZ: Olinda Harbough, Sarah Cheeran, Tezin Walji, Jane Pham, and Saujanya Geddam

Q: What is most inspiring to you about participating in an all-women science and health hackathon?

A: The most inspiring thing to me is the possibility that women in the U.S., regardless of their backgrounds or origins, will have the support to do what they aspire to do. They only need to collaborate and reach out to others.

More from the WISH 2022 Hackathon

Hear from another Team “DiabEZ” member about her experience pitching the cost-saving diabetes care idea at the WISH 2022 Hackathon. Plus, read more from another finalist who’s team proposed a unique way to reduce PPE and medical waste.