A team that includes two students from the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark (SASN) at Rutgers University-Newark has won an OZY Genius Award for their health equity app connecting volunteer translators and interpreters to private health care facilities.
The project, an app called “Language Connection”, is the brainchild of a team that includes two students from the Honors College at Rutgers-Newark: Arleen Lopez, a rising senior majoring in Neuroscience & Behavior and Biology, and Harrison Chiu, who received his Bachelor’s in Biology this month and will be entering Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Through the app, volunteers will be recruited and screened before being connected with a facility in their area. “Our app’s mission is to address the language barrier between Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients and their healthcare providers to provide better patient experiences and outcomes,” said Lopez, who has been acting as the team representative. The other members of the team are Katherine Chavarria, a class of 2021 Montclair State University student, and Reyna Moreira, a Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences student in the class of 2021.
In a year filled with difficulty, their bright ideas really shine through and give me hope for the future.
The OZY Genius Awards (OGAs), sponsored by Chevrolet, offers 10 college students up to $10,000 along with the time and mentorship to turn their genius ideas into reality. The applicant pool is competitive – winners were chosen from a field of thousands. Past OGA winners include Amanda Gorman, who spoke at the 2021 presidential inauguration and is the current poet laureate, and Rohan Pavuluri, whose free bankruptcy app "Upsolve" was named one of Time magazine's best inventions of 2020.
“The pandemic has advanced telehealth,” stated Lopez. “With proof of concept with the limited app and local services, we hope to scale up recruitment, volunteer certification, and app functionality. With the recruitment of volunteers across time zones nationally, we hope to eventually provide a video call interface that would promptly connect patients and their care provider to interpreters. This would allow our services to benefit and provide access to underserved communities nationally or even across international service trips.”
Lopez added, “Being an Ozy Award Recipient will help us to implement this idea. With the ten thousand dollar award, we will be able to recruit volunteers, provide stipends, expand mobile app development, participate in hackathons, and produce advertising. Aside from the financial compensation, Ozy will provide us with a mentor to guide us in this process. We are thankful and honored to share this award to help our community.”
This year's genius winners were chosen by a judges' panel featuring Padma Lakshmi, Katty Kay, Jalen Rose, Marc Lasry, Carmen Yulín Cruz and Dr. Monique Umphrey, and announced on May 16 at OZY Fest, the media company's virtual festival, which boasted a lineup of celebrity speakers ranging from Dr. Anthony Fauci, author Malcom Gladwell, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, and celebrity chef Ming Tsai, among many others.
"I think this year's winners represent the best of the best," said Carlos Watson, CEO of OZY. "In a year filled with difficulty, their bright ideas really shine through and give me hope for the future."
Honors College Director Laura Troiano, who mentored the team during the process, was thrilled at the announcement. “I am so proud that these students are being nationally recognized for their genius. This project is exactly the kind of creative approach to real-world problems that the Honors College encourages in all our students. We want them to actively engage with their peers and the many communities to which they belong. Arleen, Harrison and their team are living examples of this sense of citizenry and community engagement.”
Another Rutgers-Newark student, Favour Izuchukwu, who is a rising Social Work senior in the Honors Living Learning Community, was one of 25 finalists for the OZY awards for “Black Stories Sans Stereotypical Tellings.” Her project aims to dismantle stereotypes associated with Black individuals through the sharing of narratives of Black joy, confusion, wealth, immigration, "normalcy", and coming of age, among others.
OZY is a next-generation media and entertainment company that aims to help curious people see the world more broadly and more boldly by introducing them to "the New and the Next" — narratives that defy convention, change perspectives and ignite ideas. Beginning as a digital magazine in 2013, OZY has evolved into a modern media company, featuring award-winning podcasts, 100,000-person festivals and Emmy-winning TV series with leading networks, including A+E, HISTORY, Lifetime, Amazon, Hulu, OWN, PBS and BBC. Led by journalist and TV host Carlos Watson and co-founder Samir Rao, OZY is based in Mountain View, California, and backed by leading Silicon Valley investors such as Emerson Collective, Marc Lasry and Tom Franco. Learn more at OZY.com.