StartUP FIU and pharma giant GSK  kick off 12-week Innovation Challenge to address healthcare disparities in minority communities

By Guest Contributor / StartUP FIU

GSK, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and StartUP FIU, the innovation hub at Florida International University, have established a hands-on, multi-disciplinary experience that inspires students to develop new and creative solutions to dismantle health disparities in minority communities.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commitment to equity and access, the GSK Innovation Challenge kicked off on Jan. 19. The 12-week GSK Innovation Challenge gathers 40 FIU undergraduate students from disciplines as far-ranging as computer science, economics, biology and more to meet twice weekly with StartUP FIU mentors and GSK experts. During these sessions, students will identify barriers to timely and effective health maintenance and care within their communities, brainstorm strategies to overcome these barriers, and develop innovative ways to effectively communicate and engage with minority communities to ensure they have access to the latest medical information and services to keep them healthy.

“The GSK Innovation Challenge offers our dynamic students the chance to translate their unique experiences and perspectives as members of the South Florida community to creatively address issues of health disparities,” says Emily Gresham, Assistant Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Development and Co-Founder of StartUP FIU. “During the semester, students will also be receiving guidance and mentorship from experts in the field about how to effectively implement their ideas in a real-world setting.”

The benefits go both ways, too. “Our partnership with FIU, one of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the nation, will help GSK learn more about the healthcare concerns of various minority communities and develop effective communication and outreach strategies for ensuring these populations have the most up-to-date, scientifically-backed information to make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” says Maya Martinez-Davis, President U.S. GSK. 

This latest partnership with GSK highlights StartUP FIU’s mission to provide students with experiential, hands-on learning opportunities that complement their classroom studies and encourage them to examine social problems and challenges through the lens of creative innovation. StartUP FIU offers students a dedicated space where they can confidently explore their entrepreneurial capacity, while learning the skills, tools and mental frameworks necessary to adapt and thrive in our ever-evolving, technology-driven world.

“As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, I understand the significant barriers that exist when a person is new to a community and unfamiliar with how to access healthcare,” says Lina Henriquez, a Business Analytics and Marketing major who will participate in the GSK Innovation Challenge. “I am thrilled to join my fellow students as we collaborate to better understand health disparities in minority communities and look forward to developing creative solutions that ensure everyone has access to the quality care and resources they need to stay well.”

In addition to being part of a nation-wide effort to improve health outcomes for minority communities and making a positive impact in the medical field, students selected for the program will receive corporate internship credits, the opportunity to learn from leaders and experts in the healthcare industry, and earn $1,000 for their efforts.

All photos are from the GSK Innovation Challenge KickOff event and were provided by StartUP FIU.