PennHealthX: An Innovation Program Run By Students, For Students

This organization is helping students gain exposure to the intersection of business and medicine.

By Hannah Spector

Since its founding in 2013 by Dr. Roderick Wong, PennHealthX has grown into a fully-funded program that provides medical students with opportunities to explore and contribute to innovation in health care. In addition to their coursework and clinical rotations, PennHealthX leadership is busy organizing learning experiences, networking opportunities, and much more for students at the University of Pennsylvania.

In November 2018, Dr. Roderick Wong endowed the PennHealthX program with a $6 million donation. He signed the gift agreement alongside Penn President Amy Gutmann during a ceremony at Penn Medicine’s Smilow Research Center. (Photo by Daniel Burke)

Events & Networking

Innovation-based lectures, workshops, and networking events allow students to learn from and work with faculty, industry leaders, and fellow Penn students. PennHealthX has hosted over 100 lecture-series events and four conferences with over 640 tickets sold. Their most recent conference, Intelligent Partnerships, emphasized the importance of partnerships to fuel innovation in medical devices, artificial intelligence, digital health, and social enterprise. The day included a series of keynote addresses, fireside chats, smaller group workshops, and a pitch competition aimed at delving into some of the most interesting questions in healthcare. “Coming into Penn I knew I wanted to pursue clinical medicine, but was also interested in alternate ways of improving care delivery. It’s amazing to have this community where you can learn from people who are both in academia and involved with other ways to benefit their patients and the healthcare system,” says Elana Meer, PennHealthX co-president and MD/MBA candidate.

Podcast

The PennHealthX podcast has been active since 2017 and currently has an impressive 79 episodes available. Topics include highlighting exciting work at The University of Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia, and helping medical students understand how to become leaders in the field through skills outside of clinical medicine. The episodes mainly feature students and faculty members who are working in the healthcare management, entrepreneurship, and technology (H-MET) space. They discuss current events, trends and opportunities in healthcare, and other topics future healthcare leaders need to know about.

PennHealthX leaders started the podcast in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Ryan O’keefe, podcast creator)

Funding & Internships

With an emphasis on immersive learning, PennHealthX offers a variety of project funding and internship opportunities. They currently have three rounds of funding each year, with opportunities for any project team that has at least one medical student. The variety of internships are both independent within PennHealthX and joint with other Penn programs. Two independent internships each year support medical students interested in a topic not typically offered within their coursework, such as consulting. They also offer jointly funded internships, including clinical informatics in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Medical Information Officer.

“We want to expand beyond PennHealthX and the medical school to facilitate collaboration across all schools at Penn”

Step UP Platform

PennHealthX board members have found that it can be difficult to find collaborators across graduate schools at Penn. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Penn Medicine Center for Healthcare Innovation launched Step UP to connect medical students to opportunities and areas of need. It didn’t have a support system in place, so PennHealthX has created a board position to relaunch the database and develop a cross-school advisory network. “Through this initiative, we want to expand beyond PennHealthX and the medical school to facilitate collaboration across all schools at Penn,” says Meer.

Penn Health-Tech and PennHealthX have collaborated numerous times over the past few years through their mutual interest in providing students with opportunities to explore entrepreneurship. For example, Penn Health-Tech Associate Director Glory Durham has been working with the Step UP project leads to strategize the scaling of this initiative. “We are looking forward to realizing the full potential of the platform to connect faculty and students across Penn,” says Durham.

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Penn Health-Tech

Penn Health-Tech

We unite Penn Medicine, Penn Engineering, and beyond to create transformative technologies that address the world’s pressing healthcare needs.

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