Grants totaling $76,000 have been provided to entrepreneurs who are working to tackle health inequalities within their local communities.


On October 27, 2023, in Dallas, it was revealed that approximately 50 million individuals in the United States face an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke due to their lack of fundamental necessities, such as access to nutritious food, clean air, clean drinking water, quality education, job opportunities, suitable housing, and healthcare access. Historically, people of color, including Black and Hispanic/Latino communities, are at even greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) for similar reasons. The American Heart Association’s 2023 EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ has recognized and awarded cash grants to three local social entrepreneurs for their innovative efforts to combat health disparities at the community level across the nation. These individuals were selected from a group of twelve finalists who participated in the program.

This marks the seventh year of the Business Accelerator, which has celebrated and engaged with over 100 individuals, non-profit organizations, and for-profit enterprises working on innovative approaches to improve community health where they live, work, and play. This year, the top 20 applications were chosen from over 200 submissions based on the strength of their existing business models and their potential to make a significant impact on health equity barriers. The finalists then underwent a formal evaluation by the American Heart Association’s professional science health metrics team, which assessed them on various criteria, including health impact, innovation, and scalability. From this pool, twelve individuals were invited to take part in the six-week Business Accelerator “experience” where they were challenged to identify and address specific, measurable health impact case study challenges. They used design-thinking principles and data-driven customer discovery analyses to refine their responses to these challenges. Finalist candidates were encouraged to merge their ambitious goals with the practical business models taught as part of the program. Ultimately, the final grant recipients were selected by an independent panel consisting of tech entrepreneurs and small business investment experts. This selection process concluded on October 19, 2023.

Three monetary grants, totaling $67,000, were given to the following entrepreneurs in recognition of their initiatives:

  1. Anna Li, a fourth-year M.D. and Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, who founded Korion Health, received a grant of $50,000. She’s a patient and patient advocate who designed an electronic stethoscope for at-home heart and lung screenings. This stethoscope features a user-friendly interface with a guiding light to ensure accurate readings, reducing the need for some patients to visit a doctor after telemedicine consultations.

  2. Shavini Fernando, a web designer and developer specializing in video games and virtual reality, was awarded $12,000. She developed OxiWear, the first ear-wearable pulse oximeter for continuous oxygen monitoring and low oxygen warnings, particularly for those at risk of hypoxia, a condition where tissues receive inadequate oxygen.

  3. Ashley Keyes, the executive chef at the Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully (C.H.O.I.C.E.S.), received the “fan favorite” grant of $5,000, as voted by event website visitors in the two weeks leading up to the finale. Ashley works with children in schools to create food art and address food insecurity in Atlanta families through the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. Community Teaching Kitchen Project. This project includes children’s summer camps, family cooking classes, and mobile food pantries for communities.

The nine remaining finalists each received $1,000.

Nancy Brown,Nancy Brownthe CEO of the American Heart Association, noted that since 2017, the organization, with the support of corporate sponsors, has provided over $1.1 million to support start-ups and social entrepreneurs working to address the social determinants of health in their communities. The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator equips these local change makers with the knowledge needed to make meaningful improvements in health and wellness where they are most needed. The American Heart Association eagerly anticipates the innovative breakthroughs that will emerge from this experience.

Regarding the Business Accelerator:

The application period extended from May to June 2023, and chosen participants engaged in six weeks of intensive online business training immediately after their acceptance into the Accelerator. The central curriculum of the program provided formal instruction in various critical business aspects, including design thinking, customer discovery, market positioning, brand development, fundraising, and other fundamental functions to help entrepreneurs strengthen their business models and prove the feasibility of their projects.

Participant proposals and presentations were assessed by a panel of experts from the business, community, and health sectors. This panel included Jason Barnett, a senior vice president at Invest with Detroit, Courtney Couch, a strategic advisor for Path Water and the Vice President of Marketing at Interscope Geffen Records, as well as Colby Takeda, MPH, MBA, the co-founder and CEO of Pear Suite.

The event’s host was ShantaQuilette Carter Williams, an entrepreneur, inspirational and motivational speaker, and social media influencer. For more than two decades, Ms. Carter Williams has utilized beauty, fashion, and lifestyle to engage, entertain, and inspire women from diverse backgrounds. 

Source: EurekAkert