2018 HGA Public Health Fellow

We are pleased to announce Casey Collet as the recipient of the 2018 Health Guardians of America Public Health Fellowship.

The fellowship award is bestowed upon medical students, or gap year pre-medical students, affiliated with the 501(c)(3) nonprofit health organization who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment based on performance metrics as a chapter president, exceptional leadership abilities in coordination with the national student directors, and first-class honors academics.

Effective September 5th, 2018, the public health fellow will serve as the Medical Health Project Director responsible for taking ownership of the design, delivery, and evaluation of our national scale health projects. The director will also continue to lead pre-health student members and improve membership services across 25-50 college campuses.

Casey graduated summa cum laude from the University of California Los Angeles in 2018. She joined as a student member of the founding team and went on to serve as the President of UCLA HGA, achieving one of the highest number of health participants for our large scale research study. She was recently admitted to an MD Program for fall 2019 and is a terrific resource for premedical students.

The position was previously held by Bruce Youm, who will now serve as the executive chairman in an advisory capacity focused on clinical research.

He has successfully navigated the strategic growth of the organization from Berkeley to over thirty university campuses across the United States with 250-500 premedical and medical student members in the Health Guardians network, in addition to securing over $100,000 in health commitments and health program funding to enable the large scale national research study.

In addition scaling the health project to a national level, he is responsible for the engineering design of the digital health incentivization platform and the spin-out of the intellectual property assets in a protected entity such as the algorithm for automatic payouts, rewards processing, payment integration, real-time session validation, and metrics evaluation.

Bruce studied pre-medicine at Berkeley, clinical medicine research at Columbia, and medicine at Drexel. He holds a business degree from Berkeley and a management degree from Columbia.

We hope to share the results of our seven-year, national scale research study in a scientific journal to contribute to the current understanding of financial incentives for increased physical activity levels and health commitment within the field of preventive medicine and clinical applied informatics led by Finkelstein et al. (2014, Duke) and Patel et al. (2016, Penn).

During this time period, the board of student directors will continue to refine the current health project for large scale data collection and explore other national scale studies that can be designed, implemented, and evaluated on the same preventive medicine technology platform with an interest in scaling our national health project towards global health as diabetes mellitus and chronic illnesses are a cross-border health care issue.

Dental Medicine Fellow

Congratulations to Christopher Sohn, a recipient of the 2018 Medical and Dental Teaching Fellowship Award. He is currently a third-year dental student at the University of Pennsylvania engaged in research with funding from the American Association of Dental Research. After graduating from Cornell summa cum laude, he conducted research at the Hospital of Special Surgery with several publications in rheumatology. While he was interested in medicine, he ultimately found the field of dental medicine more attractive to his personal interests. Health Guardians of America is appreciative of his nonprofit service teaching trending health care topics at the intersection of dentistry, medicine, and health care. We hope this new addition will further improve student advising to our predental students with insights from Penn Dental Medicine and share lessons on major health care issues. Please visit our fellowship page for more speakers by tapping here.

Medical Teaching Fellow

We welcome our newest teaching fellow as a recipient of the Medical and Dental Teaching Fellowship Award presented to Gino Arcillo. He is currently a first-year medical student at the UCSF and holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley. He is not new to us as he served as president of Berkeley HGA and would go on to improve the impact of our digital health project as a national student director of HGA. We are grateful for his nonprofit service in teaching all chapter presidents in our health organization about medicine, public health, and health care issues. We hope our members, and other students through joint events with pre-health organizations, will benefit from his advising. Please visit our fellowship page for more speakers by tapping here.


Evidence Based Health Project

There are many scientific studies on PubMed exploring the many variables impacting physical activity levels in context of the national health issue of obesity as a risk factor leading to chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease. There are two notable studies that will be referenced for its high relevance to and support of the design of our national health project with a preventive medicine focus.

Effects of financial incentives on motivating physical activity among older adults: results from a discrete choice experiment
(2014, Duke, led by Dr. Finklestein)

Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults
(2016, University of Pennsylvania, Patel et al.)

In summary, a study from Duke suggests that financial incentives lead to increased physical activity level (2014). Interestingly, an MD/MBA professor at Wharton and UPenn hospital also pointed out in the past year that a financial loss component is a greater motivator for increased physical activity level (2016).

It is most likely that our work is so multidisciplinary that some people may not fully appreciate the pioneering nature of our health project built on a preventive medicine digital health platform for sustainability, scalability, and measurability. It has always been this case and in time, it will get to a point where the societal need is clear.

There is a societal lack of attention on sustained, long-term exercise to maximize the reduction of chronic illnesses. Nutrition is the other component completing the behavioral element of susceptibility to obesity-driven diseases. Once behavioral factor is maxed out in effectiveness and efficiency of the individual, the remaining component is molecular and environmental factors. Human genetic engineering within the decade would work at the molecular level in coordination with behavioral.

Despite the importance of the genetic component, it is not the all end single factor as behavioral will supersede the genetic constitution assuming the highest level of prevention and probability of susceptibility to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease. For instance, an individual with surplus consumption in calories will initiate metabolic pathways to store the excess calories and with storage in adipose tissue, insulin receptor per surface area square cm will decrease and will decrease sensitivity of the insulin hormone. While the first step in genetic engineering is the identification and target of susceptible alleles for said chronic disease, genetic manipulation to coordinate complex biomolecular activities seem to be far out.

One of the major reasons for the lack of a societal need to focus on chronic illnesses in respect to all the clinical trends is that it’s highly, extremely, difficult to navigate through the legal codes, understand the financial tax implications, figure out the right entity model whether nonprofit or otherwise or a combination for aligned incentives, coordinate a technology engineering team, add in the designers to the mix for health participant usability, communicate the value proposition to the health participants, convey the clear benefits of joining our efforts aligned with his or her unique compelling story for candidacy upon graduation, and lastly, an operator with a tech programming, public health, and medical background to put together the puzzle pieces.

Founders Note

Health Guardians America was founded five years ago this summer with the purpose of solving the most pressing healthcare issues in the synergistic fields of public health and medicine.

Obesity is a Tremendously Big Issue

Obesity is an issue that we have taken up as it’s a story too familiar.  Obesity is growing, diabetes is rising, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The consequence is rising healthcare costs associated with obesity-driven illnesses and diseases in the United States.

For the scientific-minded, sources are widely available in the Journal of American Medical Association, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and public and private federal reports on healthcare spending.

These discrete facts may seem random to you.  From a medical perspective, it is clear that obesity as a risk factor drives these leading chronic diseases and illnesses, which in turn surfaces as a symptomatic economic and societal problem as well.  It’s the common denominator.

While it’s easy to paint the undertone of the obesity issue as medical, there are other tones as well such as public health, health politics and policies, business and economics interests, and social culture and dynamics.

Remember to Use Prevention

As a then college student with a desire to engage in a meaningful, greater health care issue like many of you, I was shocked in disbelief and sadly disappointed that there were no other campus organizations focused on an issue this big.  I searched beyond the walls of the university lecture halls only to find campaigns that focused on general promotion (i.e. First Lady’s “Let’s Move”), specific diseases (i.e. American Heart Association), and/or medical research fundraising (i.e. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).

While these are all noble organizations, it was strikingly clear to me that there was a relative lack of attention — or a bit theoretical to be ineffective in practice — on the prevention stage, while there is greater financial resources, scientific research, and general awareness spent medical research for the later stage.

I believe in the value of medical research as it caters to the subset of population that require treatment at the molecular genetic and biochemistry levels, but when an issue is this prevalent with over 70% of the U.S. population overweight and obese, it seems to me that there are greater influencing factors involved.

Breaking It All Down On The Floor

I thought critically about this issue for quite some time and came to realize that there are three main influencing factors that lead to obesity: molecular, environmental, and behavioral.

Molecular – Medical research is required for the molecular level genetics and biochemistry pathways in the human body that cause these chronic diseases and illnesses.

Environmental – Health policies at the local, state, and federal government can influence dietary intake that feed the obesity condition through taxes on high sugary drinks and regulations on harmful trans fat foods.

Behavioral – Behavioral relates to the lifestyles people lead, diet and nutrition, physical activity levels, and other consumption habits.  It is an area I believe that will have the greatest effect in the large scale if the proper incentives and structures are in place (i.e. Pokemon Go is a great example).

Given we are all college students that best understand the other students around us, I came to the conclusion that we are in the best position to affect change that promotes greater physical activity levels to offset all the high sugar content foods easily available to us around us and decrease the probability of physiological systems failing due to obesity.

The timing is also right as new technological advancement has enabled greater progress and breakthroughs in neighboring disciplines of technology such as in finance (Stripe), sustainable and renewable energy (Tesla), real estate (AirBnB), transportation (Uber), healthcare (NantWorks), gaming (Zynga), e-commerce (Amazon), entertainment (Netflix), etc.

The question then becomes: how do you affect behavioral change leading to greater physical activity levels that becomes long lasting through habit formation?

Developing The Coolest Solution Ever

At Health Guardians America and in partnership with FitLife Technologies, we are working on one of the most groundbreaking solutions to the obesity issue that focuses specifically on affecting behavioral change, a social movement that will promote greater physical activities in the long-term.

Five years ago this summer, I had presented the following masterplan to students, medical students, and faculty from Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF School of Medicine:

  1. Design a modern health programme that focuses on promoting the healthy habit of exercising through rewards and incentives while achieving sustainability, scalability, and measurability.

    The programme needs to support the financing of its own health program internally (sustainable), maximize the impact of its programme by onboarding thousands of participants (scalable), and evaluate the effectiveness outcome of the programme to make iterations on the current version and present the results in a scientific journal (measurable).

  2. Pilot the health programme at a university level to fine-tune the model.

    The programme requires constant tweaking, modifications, and restructuring based on direct feedback from participants to maximize impact, user experience, and build credibility in college communities.

  3. Scale the health programme across the United States using mobile technology by partnering with the most talented developers from Silicon Valley.

    The programme can only further maximize its impact through a medium widely used by the target demographic which happens to be a web and mobile platform to reach the most number of participants and collect data for outcomes effectiveness analysis to guide improvements.

Aren’t We Just Amazing?

Fast forward five years with the generous support of past and present members, our health programme has just landed at the third stage with a sustainable, scalable, and measurable model now in operations across the United States.

We are present in over 10 college campuses, with +100 college members, and +1000 total participants to date.  We have logged +10,000 hours, with +70% of our participants dispersed, with +35% fulfilling their health pledge.

While these numbers seem modest, I believe we will experience an exponential growth in the coming years with the continued focus, dedication, and commitment towards solving this important social, public health, medical, healthcare, and economic issue.

The New and Improved Faster, Stronger, Harder Master Plan 2020

For the next five years, the new masterplan will be:

  1. Scale the flagship college outreach health programme across over 100 campuses, over 100 general members, and over 5,000 participants per campus.  (year 1-4)
  2. Design and pilot a childhood obesity outreach programme using mobile technology for the local communities neighboring the college chapters.  (year 1-3)
  3. Scale the childhood obesity outreach programme.  (year 3.5-4)

Basically, it would be awesome to live in a world where you can continually get rewarded just to stay healthy and exercise.  Same thing for childhood obesity but incentives that make them happy (Pokemon?).

It will require lots of work but I am confident that we have the capability, resources, and the mental fortitude to make progress towards solving one of the greatest problems of our generation.  I have trust and faith in the chapter presidents that I have personally recruited and worked closely with over the year.  

I believe that the team he or she has built up from ground up at the major universities in our organization will bring on the most talented, dedicated, and good hearted people that aligned with the mission and culture of our health organization. 

The End and Beginning Of Your Lives

While our members prepare to apply for graduate and professional degrees and for the launch of their professional careers, I am certain that the time spent through this organization will be a time well spent with relatable experience as proven by our alumni who went off to become healthcare professionals in pharmaceuticals, dental medicine, medicine or compete at the international stage in the Olympic Games or pursue the business path in consulting or investment banking.

As our members graduate and move on to the next stages of their lives, I believe it will be rewarding to see that the health project continue to grow and prosper from a distance.

FITLIFE Summer Sixteen Cycle Launched!

Today marks the start of another FITLIFE cycle across the United States from New York City to Houston to Los Angeles. We wish the best of luck to our FITLIFE participants who committed to pledge towards a better health for the next 5 weeks!

New website launched!

Hi There! You caught us in the middle of updating our website! We’ll have everything up and running by the end of this week. Please contact us if you have any questions: join [at] healthguardians [dot] org