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A team composed of students from across Northwestern University claimed the top prize in the 2010 CHEST competition. The team created a social networking site that allows diabetic patients to monitor their test results and measure their progress against others.

2010 CHEST competition

2010 CHEST Foundation Case Competition

Kellogg and Northwestern students team up to promote better outcomes for diabetes care

By Sara Langen

6/2/2010 - Milind Kopikare ’11 wants diabetics to rethink the way they approach the disease — and their lives.

Pulling out his iPhone, Kopikare asked the audience at the 2010 CHEST Foundation Case Competition how many of them jogged. After surveying the raised hands, Kopikare showed the crowd a pedometer app on his phone that allows him to keep track of how many miles he runs.

The same concept can be applied to diabetes management, Kopikare said.

“There are a lot of monitoring devices out there today,” he said. “Social networks are very effective at motivating you to manage your health.”

Kopikare and his teammates — representing schools from across the university —decided to build a site called Dia-life, geared toward the diabetic patient. The idea, Kopikare said, was to work with employers and insurance companies to help employees take direct action.

By giving patients an incentive to become more involved in managing their diabetes, the website helps patients, providers, insurers and employers drive down healthcare costs, Kopikare said. The social networking program allows patients to monitor their test results and measure their progress against others.

The Dia-life concept, which can be tailored to different populations, won Kopikare and teammates Mihir Naware ’11, Ajit Thupil ’11, and Northwestern graduate students Amy Ide (Health Policy), William Liu (Feinberg School of Medicine) and Chwan-Hai Harold Hsiung (McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science) the competition’s $7,000 first-place prize.

This year’s competition was sponsored by the Larry and Carol Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab and Kellogg’s Health Enterprise Management Program, in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, American Diabetes Association and Medtronic. The event challenged Kellogg and Northwestern students to develop practical business models to improve diabetic patient outcomes. The top two teams pitched their concepts to a distinguished panel of judges from across the healthcare field May 11 at the James L. Allen Center.

The second-place team, Ticket 2 Change, received a $3,000 prize for its proposed comprehensive lifestyle improvement plan for patients with diabetes, as well as those at risk for the disease. Under the plan, patients are given a card to swipe whenever they participate in healthy activities, such as attending education programs, exercising and monitoring their blood sugar levels. The patients earn points that can be redeemed in coupons for healthy foods and other incentives.

Each team member — Josh Engel ’11, Avidan Ben Har ’11, Frank Sasso ’11, Timmie Wang ’11, Bill Shields ’11 and Mitra Afshari (Feinberg School of Medicine) —knew someone who had been affected by the disease, Sasso said, making the success of the project personal to all. “Ticket 2 Change creates healthier, more efficient and productive populations,” he said.

Both teams did an outstanding job tackling the daunting task, said competition moderator Timothy Feddersen, the Wendell Hobbs Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences and director of the SEEK program. “Every year I am blown away by the time and effort students put into this,” he said.

As the judges deliberated, the audience participated in a new feature of the competition, where non-finalist teams had the chance to give two-minute pitches that were followed by an American Idol-style text and online instant voting system. Elizabeth Sayed ’10 accepted the award for giving the winning pitch for the Diabetes Portal, a health and wellness management website tailored to helping patients find comprehensive diabetes information. Her other team members were Kelly Sparks ’11, Mia Jackson ’11, Jenny Lau (McCormick), Azmina Lakhani (Feinberg) and Sejal Danawala (Feinberg).

As for Dia-life, the team is excited about moving forward with its winning business concept.

“We are currently talking to subject-matter experts regarding possible challenges we will face going forward,” Thupil said. “We plan to regroup and weigh our options at the end of this month. We will then decide the next steps we need to focus on.”