Remembering the welcome speech by Dean Francisco Veloso which encouraged us to make the most of our time at Imperial College Business School, we (Marta and Louis, Intercalated BSc students), decided to attend the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack 2018. The event was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who annually hosts one of the largest health hackathons in the world.

But first of all: what even is a health hackathon? A health hackathon is an event where people from all different backgrounds (healthcare providers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, etc.) come together, usually over an entire weekend, and “hack” solutions for current problems in healthcare. After the participants themselves pitch their “pain points”, teams form and the hacking begins.

MIT Grand Hack Marta and Louis

Upon arriving at the event, we soon found out that our mix of skills was fairly unique and very much appreciated by other the participants. Coming from medical school originally, we chose to take an extra year studying our Intercalated BSC in Management at the Business School. Having found her team for the next 48 hours, Marta worked to create a platform where stressed and worried medical students could connect to peer supporters on campus, anonymously or in person.

In the hall next door, Louis and his five teammates were developing an alert system for nursing homes for an earlier detection of sepsis to reduce the rate of emergency hospital admissions.

Our first hackathon turned out to be intense and fun at the same time. We both found it astonishing how well one can connect with another when there is a problem to hack within such a short time period. Fortunately, the coursework assignments both of us completed in groups over the past academic year left us well-prepared to collaborate within teams and work efficiently under pressure.

In the end, neither of our groups received a prize, but the connections, friendships and experiences we are taking away from the hackathon are worth a lot more.

Speaking of connections – Boston is a perfect place for networking. While Louis ended up surrounded by the best researchers in the field of health informatics at MIT, Marta found her way to the main office of the Planetary Health Alliance at Harvard University, where she was warmly welcomed and encouraged to get involved.

On our flight back to London, we reflected on how natural it felt to us to undertake this challenge. After one year at Imperial College Business School, flying overseas to attend a hackathon at one of the best universities in the world was a piece of cake. And a pretty good one at that.

Marta recently competed in the Digital Health Product Forge challenge, the largest health hackathon in Europe. Her team won the main prize, out of 30 participating teams. She said, “The win wouldn’t have been possible without all the knowledge I gained during my time at Imperial College Business School, so I’m taking this opportunity to express my appreciation for all the work that the Business School does to organise the Intercalated BSc.”