From ensuring their continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump are working to disregarding well-intentioned advice from strangers about what to eat, daily living can be a challenge for those with diabetes.
This is something Brianna Morales, an OHSU research assistant, knows well. She’s among 9.4 percent of the U.S. that lives with diabetes. That’s why she eagerly agreed to help Beaverton teenagers develop new technologies for people with the disease.
Thirty-three students are participating in the Connectathon Challenge: Diabetes, a hands-on learning experience organized by the Digital Health Collaborative. The collaborative aims to make Beaverton, Oregon, and surrounding communities a hub for digital health technology development and commercial activity. It’s also a collaboration between the Beaverton School District, City of Beaverton and the private biotech industry.
“These kids’ minds are so incredible,” Morales said. “If we can encourage them to use technology to better a life and help those living with diabetes, then I’m a big supporter.”
Morales was among a handful of OHSU health care professionals who initially met with the students in mid-March. Other OHSU clinicians present that day include Farahnaz Joarder, M.D., and Joseph El Youssef, M.D., who organized an expert panel to explain what diabetes is, how it is treated and share what it’s like to live with the disease.
The students, all of whom attend Beaverton’s Health and Science School, were divided into six teams. Each team was given a box of supplies – including a tablet, health monitor watch, glucose monitoring patch and cloud development tools. Next, they met with physicians, patients and technology leaders to brainstorm ways to turn those supplies into solutions that help people living with diabetes.
Seeing the students’ enthusiasm, Morales twice returned to these weekly tech jam sessions. She’s particularly excited about one team’s idea: a social networking app to help patients connect with others living with diabetes.
Joarder, who treats young adults with Type 1 diabetes, also sees the Connectathon as a way to help patients.
“One group is making a decorated glucose meter, which could make a patient’s day-to-day routine more cheerful and pleasant,” Joarder said. “That small touch can encourage patients to be more involved in their own care, and ultimately be healthier.”
Dennis McNannay, a co-founder of the Digital Health Collaborative and chief executive officer of health technology company Curadite, hopes the learning experience will show students there are innovation opportunities in Oregon and encourage them to consider careers in health technology.
The public can learn more from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, when all six student teams will present their product ideas. The student showcase will happen at the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy, 11375 S.W. Center St., Beaverton. Given the venue’s small space, attendees are asked to confirm ahead of time online.