Morehouse School of Medicine PA Student Wins MIT Anti-Racism Competition

This year, MIT held its inaugural “hackathon” competition called Hacking Racism in Healthcare, in which participants work to identify problems and develop solutions to dismantle structural racism in health care and address social determinants of health. The competition was made up of six tracks, including social justice, population health, and wellness.

One of 20 winning teams, out of more than 700 applicants, was Hidden Health, which designed a patient-provider matching platform and app. Calbeth Alaribe, a first-year PA student at Morehouse School of Medicine and one of the team members of Hidden Health, spoke to us about what led her to participate in the hackathon, what the experience meant to her, and what’s next in her advocacy efforts.

Prior to joining the Morehouse School of Medicine PA program, Alaribe earned a Master’s in Public Health from Emory University and worked in global health, advancing women leaders around the world. She always knew she would like to practice medicine but did not find her niche until learning about the PA profession and becoming a student at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

When Alaribe learned about the hackathon, she knew she wanted to enter. “Because of everything going on in America with structural racism, and me being in the health care field, as well as being Nigerian American – my parents are immigrants – I knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said.

Leading up to the hackathon, participants don’t know what track they will be given, and they are not allowed to plan or strategize at all before the competition begins. Alaribe’s team consisted of four other individuals from diverse fields. They came together on a Friday and ended the competition with the business plan for Hidden Health by Sunday.

Hidden Health is an innovative patient-provider matching platform and app that addresses the problem of the racial discrimination prevalent in patient-provider interactions and institutions. The app creates a space where patients can anonymously learn more about providers’ backgrounds, education, and interests in an effort to select the provider who is best matched to their care needs. “Research shows that prior to a patient entering a hospital setting, there is a bias,” Alaribe said. “If we can remove that barrier prior to patient-provider meet-up, that could reduce biases in medicine and give everyone – of all colors, races, ethnicities – the opportunity for quality health care.”

Hidden Health transforms the way providers communicate with patients, engaging them in health behaviors through videos, pictures, and social media. The platform also offers an extensive library of information about various health conditions and prevention methods, as well as a live health forum where providers and patients can communicate. The app aims to bring telehealth to a wide range of audiences and educate providers on discrimination practices in medicine through gamification.

Alaribe specifically hopes to see PAs utilize the app. “There are a lot of telemedicine apps out there, and they’re solely focused on the MD perspective,” she said. “In order to actually heal the health care system, we need to include all providers.”

Alaribe said she hopes the app can be a catalyst for change for years to come. “I want to help heal the U.S. health care system,” she said. “It’s been damaged, and we can’t just put a bandaid on it. That’s been done for decades now.”

In addition to building the app and the company behind it, Alaribe looks forward to earning a doctorate degree and developing her advocacy skills while representing the patients she serves. “Whether it’s from a provider perspective, advocacy, public policy, or even the new and advanced tech we’re trying to build, my goal, my life purpose, is to help others in any way I can.”