“We’ve come together for many reasons, first and foremost it is an exciting opportunity for our newly crowned Center for Entrepreneurship, and the newly accredited School of Public Health, to work together and join forces in order to address some of society’s and our world’s biggest problems,” said Don Operario, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, during his introduction of speaker Danny Warshay during an event earlier this month titled How to Solve Public Health Problems Through Entrepreneurship.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month, and various departments at Brown, including the School of Public Health, are partnering with the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship to produce a series of events across campus to engage, inspire, and empower the Brown and local community.

Dr. Operario explained that it currently takes about 17 years for scientific discoveries to become integrated into actual policy and practice. This may be because public health researchers and professionals don’t often consider themselves entrepreneurs, whose role is to move products toward a broader audience. To provide an entrepreneurial perspective, the School of Public Health invited Danny Warshay, Director of Brown’s newly formed Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, to lead a panel discussion and workshop. Several Brown students and alumni currently practicing entrepreneurship joined him.

Dr. Operario facilitated an engaging and inspiring discussion with five Brown students and alumni applying their knowledge, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit to solve some of the most pressing problems in health and medicine. Yuri Tomikawa ‘12, founder of Zencare, a therapist-matching service, started her company after personally experiencing difficulties finding the right therapist. “It was this really frustrating process, where I knew I wanted to talk to a therapist and yet there were so many roadblocks to get there.” For Bella O’Kiddy ‘16, an unwavering commitment and desire to help those affected by sexual assault was instrumental in her entrepreneurial venture. “The only idea we had at the very beginning was, ‘We want to help.’” Her venture, Tech Against Assault, develops innovative sexual assault evidence kits. Eric Bai ‘15.5 and Michelle Peterson ‘18, cofounders of TextUp, provide case management software to social service agencies. They found that entrepreneurship afforded them the opportunity to really make a difference in their area of interest. “For me, the biggest part of entrepreneurship is independence,” Bai said. “Being able to think about issues, or a problem that you find, is really important, whether it is based on past experience or things you’ve come across in your life, and not having to wait to a certain stage in your life when you have enough experience or knowledge or money to work on it.” Jennifer Nazareno, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, is the daughter of an immigrant entrepreneur. Her early life experiences shaped her research interests, which lie in immigrant ethnic entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on Filipino women who came to the United States as nurses and opened up assisted living facilities after the US deinstitutionalization era.

After the panel discussion, Danny Warshay delivered his internationally renowned workshop, The Entrepreneurial Process, to teach students, faculty, staff, and community members the most critical aspects of any entrepreneurial venture. Danny also stressed that “entrepreneurship is a methodology that you can apply to your work in ways that have nothing to do necessarily with business.” Finding and validating an unmet need, developing a value proposition, and creating a sustainability model are the successive steps required for any entrepreneurial process, whether it’s creating the next hit smartphone app, or an intervention to improve health.

This was one of several events planned for Entrepreneurship Month. Entrepreneurship at the Intersection of Diversity and Inequality, a one-day conference featuring speakers from around the country, will be held at the Brown RISD Hillel on December 5th. The conference will provide critical perspectives on how entrepreneurship has served as a potential pathway toward inclusion and socioeconomic mobility, particularly in times of exclusion and marginalization. The workshop, which will include several faculty and students from the School of Public Health, will feature Dr. Alejandro Portes, a prominent Cuban-American sociologist and immigration scholar who chairs the department of sociology at Princeton University.