Master of Public Health student Leah Ellis shares her experience of the recent EIT Health Innovation Day
The warm lighting of chandeliers sparkled though the opulent ballroom of the Palais Brongniart as the sounds of Paris traffic hummed from the street below.
The room held its breath as teams waited anxiously to hear if they had become a Top 5 finalist at the EIT Innovation Day Winner’s Event. A whisper came from the seat to my left, “No matter what happens, I’m so proud of us!”. My colleagues, who had gone from complete strangers to trusted teammates in a matter of hours, all smiled in agreeance. The applause of hundreds of people suddenly broke the silence as the announcer rang out “Rhea, the Detector Pad!”.
An idea which had developed in a small lecture theatre of Imperial College London between four strangers had progressed to become a Top 5 Innovation Finalist out of 32 prestigious European universities at the EIT Health Innovation Winner’s event in Paris.
Our journey began in November as 101 students arrived at the South Kensington campus for a day of training in innovation and entrepreneurship. After inspiring lectures from past attendees, teams were randomly allocated and presented with the task of developing innovative health ideas for the concept of “Bringing Care Home”. Each team underwent design thinking training, pitch coaching and various rapid ideation tasks in order to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to shift healthcare from the hospital to home.
As my team progressed through the activities and training, I soon came to realize the importance and versatility of being allocated to a team with a multitude of backgrounds including public health, engineering, medicine, and business. After 9 hours of discussion, development and pitching our idea to a prestigious panel of judges, “Rhea, the Detector Pad” was selected at the Gold Place Winner and presented with the opportunity to represent Imperial College London at the Paris Winner’s Event!
The EIT Health Innovation events allowed me to utilize the knowledge I have acquired during my Master of Public Health course at Imperial, collaborate with colleagues from a multitude of professional backgrounds, and develop new skills sets that will benefit my future career. As the Founder and Executive Director of Oyana International, Inc., a nonprofit working to eliminate gender disparities caused by menstrual taboos in Tanzania, I am grateful for EIT Health, Imperial, and my new teammates for allowing me to continue these principles and objectives with the development of “Rhea, The Detector Pad”.
Our product, an environmentally friendly menstrual pad designed to detect STIs, was developed in order to reduce the barriers which often prevent women from seeking medical attention to diagnose sexually transmitted infections. With £136 billion cut from sexual health services in the UK and national STI rates steadily increasing, our product aims to bring these crucial services home to women in the UK and around the world. I am very much looking forward to continuing research and development of ‘Rhea’ with my team in order to combat these barriers of sexual health services on a global scale.
Leah Ellis is currently an MPH student at Imperial College. Innovation Days is an EIT Health activity involving partners from 21 European countries, which is led by Imperial College. For more information, contact Dr. Filippos Filippidis or Emily Saunders, or visit the EIT Health Innovation webpage.