Category Archives: Student Productions

Seeds of Change

Bassam Zahid, MSIII

A few months ago, world-renowned design firm, IDEO, released a new tool to assess the innovative capacity of companies. They compiled years of data from working with some of the biggest companies in the world and determined that great companies embody six core values:

  • Purpose – a clear, inspiring reason for a company’s existence and whether or not leadership and employees align on that vision
  • Looking Out – how often a company’s employees look beyond the walls of their institution to get ideas, insights, and inspiration
  • Experimentation – how amenable a company is to inexpensively and quickly trialing new ideas, using data to assess success or failure
  • Collaboration – how well different departments work together to bring new ideas into fruition
  • Empowerment – how much autonomy does an institution give its employees to create meaningful change
  • Refinement – how effective is the institution in executing its ideas by marrying strategy, design, and product

While different people in different department at Meharry will have varying opinions on how well our school meets these standards, the seeds of change have been planted. Two years ago, I gathered a team of students, faculty, and administrators to establish 2100 Health and Technology, a student group on campus focused on healthcare innovation. Building upon the work of students who came before us, we teamed up with Student Services, the Office of Research, and the Department of Bioinformatics to develop an app – Meharry Mobile; establish a Ted-Talk style speaker series – Start Up Symposium; and conduct various programs like coding workshops and a health app design competition.

One of 2100’s goals has been to create meaningful cultural change at Meharry. We envision Meharrians shifting from mere consumers of information to active innovators. It became vital that we establish a creative space on campus. Our work in our first year had tilled the soil with administration; we knew they trusted us. As medical schools and hospitals across the country have been building innovation centers in the past decade and we asked, why not us?

At the beginning of last semester, we pitched the idea for an innovation center to Dr. Hildreth and received the school’s blessing to establish the Meharry Innovation Center in the Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. Sponsored by the Office of Research and Student Services, we officially opened in January 2017. Finally, a garden for creative thought! Now we needed healthy doses of sunshine, water, and equipment. Within weeks, we outfitted the center with art supplies for protoyping, decorated the walls with inspiring quotes, and began holding meetings once a week for those interested in healthcare innovation and business. The innovation center represented a major milestone for 2100, as we became the only student group on campus with our own physical space… in the newest building on campus by the way.

Over the past semester, the Meharry Innovation Center has harvested student creativity and put on a variety of programs. We began the semester with art workshops that challenged students to learn anatomy by building 3D models of the vessels in the abdomen and of the spinal tracts in the nervous system. We held events that varied from discussions on artificial intelligence to experimenting with Microsoft HoloLens to discussing design thinking principles in healthcare. Emboldened by innovations in medical education, we have even held improv comedy workshops. And in an effort to establish cross-discipline collaboration, we teamed up with the Matthew Walker Surgery Club to host a morbidity and mortality conference.

The Meharry Innovation Center represents a grand experiment that is a departure from the modus operandi traditionally seen at our school. The school gave 2100 Health and Technology space on campus to test out ideas and programs that we would like to see established on campus. We were given the freedom to fail in a controlled environment – a place to learn from our mistakes rather than be punished for them. If one of our programs was poorly executed or did not draw many participants, we viewed it as an opportunity to prune the bushes and pull the weeds.

I propose that the establishment of the Meharry Innovation Center should be held as a model for the rest of the school as we continue to fertilize our curriculum, clinics, and administration with creative thought and innovative practices. While we still have our shortcomings, the Meharry Medical College took a chance on creating the Innovation Center that incidentally checks off many of the standards established by IDEO. The Center is driven by the clear purpose of delivering healthcare innovation to the underserved. We have been active in learning about medical education innovation from established programs like JeffDesign at Jefferson Medical College, the Design Institute for Health at UT Austin, and the Vanderbilt Medical Innovation Lab. Most importantly, the Innovation Center has served as a hub for collaboration across different departments and given us the freedom to experiment with ideas that can potentially transform Meharry.

Moving forward, our work at the Meharry Innovation Center is far from over. 2100 Health and Technology is looking for new recruits to lead the next wave of innovation at our school. We are hoping to partner with different organizations and departments across campus so that the Meharry Innovation Center can move from the fringes of campus life towards the center. We envision a center that plants firm roots into the ground and extends branches to connect the students, faculty, and administration.

Now the question we must ask is, are you ready to get your hands dirty?


Speak Life, Speak Love

Thanks to all the fantastic performers at the Speak Life, Speak Love Spoken Word Event held on Meharry’s campus on Feb 12th!  A full house of those inspired and inspiring. *snap, snap*

**contact Estevana Isaac, MSII for more information about getting involved in creative writing or future spoken word events.

Letter from the Editor

Estevana Isaac, MSIII

My voice often feels muffled. People say I mumble. I come off as shy, hesitant and quiet.

“Speak up.”

“I can’t hear you.”

That was a lot of my feedback growing up. And now I wish I could tell you that adding my opinion comes natural to me. As a training physician, I still think about the consequences of criticism, rejection and conflict in both my work and personal life. To be honest, as a black woman, my opinion has never been as rigorously sought as it has been now. But what muffles it? Is it the system, my superiors, my peers or is it me?

I remember when President Obama first won the election in 2008. I was anxiously sitting in the lounge of my undergraduate dormitory. At the University of Pennsylvania, my peers and I represented a minority and now we suddenly mattered – a black president. For the night, we had a voice. We forgot about the divisions between race and class. We forgot our opinions were not that of the majority.

Eight years later and two successful terms in office, we now have the opportunity to witness another historical stride. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a forerunner in the Democratic Party and the first female candidate to gather this much support in presidential elections. In February 2016, she visited us here at our institution, Meharry Medical College.

I witnessed the diversity of supporters that flooded the ballroom of The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. While standing in the crowd with my classmates, I knew my voice mattered. I am a black female voter with the opportunity to witness leaders that generations before me would have never imagined. The American political system has seldom allowed individuals that look like myself to have roles of leadership. As a result, my voice has always felt muffled in such arenas.

Regardless of who wins the 2016 elections, seeing candidates that look like me brings my viewpoints to the forefront. So the next time, I doubt voicing my opinion as a doctor, because of fear of being critiqued by my superior and peers, I must remember that I, too, am a leader. Children that look like me see my role as a physician and picture themselves in my place. And it’s my understanding of those patients with similar experiences that gives me an advantage in the quality of care that I provide. Hence, not applying my diverse background to the health care arena will only exclude my voice and that of my patient from the conversation.

So how can I speak louder than the system, my superiors and my peers? As an American citizen, not voting for the candidate that represents my opinion allows the system to drown out my views. As a physician, not advocating for patients that I empathize with stifles the concerns of my patient. And not speaking up for myself muffles my voice amongst my superiors and peers. But I stop mumbling when I project my voice louder than my own hesitations and vote for a 2016 candidate that empathizes and advocates for me.