Hack for Health and the Future of Convergent Science



hack·a·thon /ˈhakəˌTHän/

noun informal

  1. an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.

As I write this I’m going on hour 26 of the 48-hour Hack for Health, a University of Southern California-based, CancerBase-sponsored hackathon. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, know that until recently I did either. That’s 48 straight hours! With me are about 70 students from the schools of engineering, computer science, health sciences and more, along with at least a dozen mentors who span patient advocacy, cancer research, oncology, and tech development. AnneMarie is with me as well. We’re on the mentor side (which means I get to sleep).

The mission: Hack Cancer. Or more precisely, design something that uses technology to help cancer patients.

I’m of a generation that thinks of “hacking” as a bad thing – like when my Yahoo email was hacked and I spammed everyone I know. But not here. Here 20-somethings are coming together to make an impact on disease; they are here to change the world. There are both bragging rights and monetary prizes at stake. Since we’re still in the middle of it, I can’t tell you what the various teams are working on, but I can tell you that they are passionate, creative and innovative. They are operating in the space of convergent science, bringing together specializes across the entire campus.

There is so much promise in what these “kids” are working on. They are so engaged that even these starving students are pretty much ignoring dinner in favor of working.

As an advocate, it is an incredible honor to work with these students, to encourage them and push them, to get them thinking about what is and what might be. Who knows where this will lead them? They are here to change lives, yes, but in being here, we are each changed as well.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pawwetzel
    Apr 09, 2017 @ 11:20:46

    Hi. I’d like to connect with you on an idea. I’m pat@CancerRoadTrip.com


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