Congratulations to Aubrey Van Kirk Villalobos, M.P.H., M.Ed., director of cancer control and health equity at the Institute for Patient-Centered Initiatives and Health Equity at the George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center, who was part of the winning Urgent Wellness team from the GW New Venture Competition. Urgent Wellness received a $15,000 check as part of the first place prize to help put their health care innovation into action. The team also received $5,000 from the AARP Foundation’s Older-Adult Focused Innovation, a special category prize. They were previously awarded an additional $5,000 on April 5th for advancing to the competition finals.

“Urgent Wellness stems from the idea that you can improve health outcomes and health disparities while reducing health care costs,” said Villalobos. “Our centers will be staffed by skilled Community Health Workers (CHWs) and provide disease prevention education, chronic disease management counseling and tools, and acute care telemedicine. This will help save money from unnecessary emergency room visits and avoid hospitalizations by helping people better control their health.”

Urgent Wellness is a new social enterprise that proposes a way to better care for low-income and homeless populations currently unable to access health care, despite having health insurance. Villalobos and the team want to turn medicine right side up by focusing on wellness, as well as disease. Urgent Wellness ultimately seeks to provide convenient community-placed, CHW-operated telemedicine and medical vending machine kiosks to improve the health of vulnerable populations while reducing health care costs. Urgent Wellness centers will be placed in low-income housing projects, homeless shelters, and community-based service organizations.

To the Urgent Wellness team, Villalobos brings ten years of experience in directing national and local initiatives for cancer prevention and community health promotion. As a current DrPH student at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at GW, Villalobos worked closely on the business model with Urgent Wellness President and visionary Freya Spielberg, M.D., M.P.H., who is an associate professor in prevention and community health and director of community-oriented primary care at the Milken Institute SPH. Additionally, Villalobos worked with John Barabino, M.B.A., and Luigi Leblanc, M.P.H., CPHIT, who are members of the Urgent Wellness team.

The New Venture Competition, now in its eighth year, is organized by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Office of the Vice President for Research and is one of the largest collegiate entrepreneurship competitions in the United States. This year, teams vied for more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

To learn more about this year’s GW Venture Competition, please visit https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/next-new-venture-improving-access-preventative-care.  

To learn more about Urgent Wellness, please visit http://urgentwellness.com/.