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Innovator, Advocate, Fellow: Meet the Emerging Champions of Health

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Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Fellows participate in on-site training to become stronger advocates for health equity.

Entrepreneurs and development professionals can be powerful champions of better healthcare. With the right resources, support and training, their efficacy as advocates could be exponential. 

That’s why Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures, an impact investment fund within the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, supports the Aspen Institute’s Healthy Communities and New Voices fellowships. Through these fellowships, we aim to help innovators develop their platforms, hone their voices and gain tactical skills to become stronger proponents for greater health equity and culturally competent care. The Aspen Healthy Communities Fellowship is designed for health impact entrepreneurs and other innovators driving change in their communities. The Aspen New Voices Fellowship is tailored to global development experts from Africa, Asia and Latin America, working to uplift their perspectives and inspire policy change. 

We’re thrilled to back these fellowships and introduce you to some of the fellows in the 2022 cohorts:

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Ivelyse Andino – Healthy Communities Fellow
Ivelyse Andino is the Founder and CEO of Radical Health in New York, New York. As an Afro-Latina born and raised in the Bronx and a community organizer, she takes inspiration from her background to usher in a new wave of equitable health tech. “Transforming the healthcare system ultimately depends on meaningful, organic conversations,” wrote Andino. “By leaning on our collective and individual lived experiences,” she continued, “we can achieve an equitable healthcare system that leaves no one behind.” Through Radical Health, Andino works to create an equitable medical system and empower underserved communities through healthcare fluency.

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Aaron Johnson – Healthy Communities Fellow
Aaron Johnson is the Owner and CEO of Oasis Fresh Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is working to ensure all residents of Tulsa can access fresh and healthy foods, as healthy diets are a core tenant of good health. “In a community that was once called Black Wall Street, North Tulsa has not had a grocery store in 14 years,” Johnson said. To address this need, he founded the health-focused grocery store, Oasis Fresh Market, and started the Oasis Project to provide his community with services such as legal aid, vaccination clinics, voter registration education, resume building and more.

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Kwamane Liddell – Healthy Communities Fellow
Kwamane Liddell is the Founder and CEO of Nutrible in Sacramento, California. Liddell previously served as a trauma nurse where he witnessed many Black patients die from “living conditions that made it difficult to access food that would extend their lives and improve their well-being.” This harsh reality motivated him to start Nutrible and its web-based app, which aims to make it easy for hospitals to deliver food tailored to patient needs after they are discharged.

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Erica Plybeah – Healthy Communities Fellow
Erica Plybeah is the Founder and CEO of MedHaul in Memphis, Tennessee. Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, she saw how poverty exacerbates barriers to care. “I absolutely love the Delta, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world, with some of the most resilient people in the world,” reflected Plybeah, “however, being a native of rural Mississippi taught me a great deal about the importance of access to healthcare.” She founded MedHaul to create tech solutions that help patients get accessible and life-saving transportation resources.

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Monique Antoinette Smith – Healthy Communities Fellow
Monique Antoinette Smith is the Founding Executive Director of Health DesignED: The Acute Care Design + Innovation Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Smith draws on the experience of her patients she sees as an emergency department physician to reimagine technology and new ways of providing care that improve equity in health outcomes. Smith recalls, “as an entrepreneur and founder of color, I saw first-hand how the singularity of stories—even stories of inequity and social justice—left no room for our heterogenous needs as diverse people with varied lived experience.” Smith is out to change that.

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Leah Upton – Healthy Communities Fellow
Leah Upton is the Medical Director of Community Health Connection in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a physician in a community clinic, she helps build structures that promote holistic healthcare and overcome systemic barriers to health. “Building structures for holistic care is a dynamic and iterative process,” Upton said. “It demands that leaders and organizations accept that they have a responsibility to be a part of the solution.” Upton advocates for increased access to holistic care because it can have a positive impact on health outcomes for vulnerable populations.

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Ashlee Wisdom – Healthy Communities Fellow
Ashlee Wisdom is the CEO of Health in Her HUE in New York, New York. “I saw a need for more awareness of the health disparities among Black women, but I didn’t want to stop there,” said Wisdom. “I also saw a need for Black women to have a space where we can talk amongst ourselves about what’s going wrong,” she continued, “so that we can be equipped to better advocate for ourselves.” This led Wisdom to create Health in Her HUE and its digital platform that connects Black women to culturally competent healthcare providers and with one another.

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Imo Etuk – New Voices Fellow
Imo Etuk is the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at mDoc Healthcare in Lagos, Nigeria. He started mDoc Healthcare to provide healthcare support through web and mobile services to people with regular and chronic health needs in Nigeria. “From a chronic disease management standpoint, technology can aid people with tracking their health metrics and medication adherence,” said Etuk. “The engineer in me,” he continued, “believes we can use technology to solve the burgeoning chronic health needs of our continent.”

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Shuchin Bajaj – New Voices Fellow
Shuchin Bajaj is the Founder of Cygnus Healthcare, in New Delhi, India. The son of refugees and a physician, Bajaj knows how living in communities with restricted access to healthcare can impact lives. “My goal is to completely dissociate access to high quality healthcare from one's financial, social or geographical status around the world,” said Bajaj. With that goal in mind, Bajaj stood up Cygnus Healthcare to establish a chain of hospitals that provide low-cost healthcare for rural communities with limited resources.

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Nour Sharara – New Voices Fellow
Nour Sharara is a Public Health Scientist, based in New York, New York. Throughout her career, she has seen first-hand how priorities can be misaligned between international public health groups and the local authorities they partner. Sharara hopes to correct this and advocate for all segments of society to be heard when developing and implementing healthcare products. “I hope to raise awareness about inclusive and accessible public health innovative technologies and about the need to consider, and hold accountable, the growing role of technology in public health and healthcare,” said Sharara.

We’re excited to see how these fellows will further affect change as we work toward the vision of a world in which good health is within reach of everyone, everywhere.