The Nicholson Foundation & Rutgers Announce Winner Of Healthcare Delivery Challenge

Winning Team Created New Smartphone Application to Help Underserved Populations Manage Type 2 Diabetes & Reduce Healthcare Costs

Newark, N.J. – The next generation of healthcare innovators took center stage at The Nicholson Foundation & Rutgers Healthcare Delivery Challenge Award Ceremony April 22 at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. To win the Challenge, team “Copernicus Health” presented its smartphone application, which engages and motivates underserved populations to better manage their Type 2 diabetes, while also working to reduce costs to the healthcare system. They received $50,000 to implement the innovation in a Rutgers-affiliated clinic.

Funded by The Nicholson Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare for New Jersey’s underserved communities, the event served as the culmination of a four-month Challenge competition, which was managed by Health 2.0. The Challenge encouraged students and faculty to form interdisciplinary teams and work together to submit proposals for ready-to-implement service delivery or technology innovations that can improve the quality and contain the costs of healthcare for underserved populations. More than 50 students and faculty from Rutgers participated in the Challenge, and the award ceremony gave the top three teams the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, including a representative from a venture capital group, distinguished healthcare professionals, and academic leaders.

The winning team members, including Rutgers undergraduate computer science student Jeet Patel and second-year medical students at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Tom Nahass, Josh David, Brian Friel, Jonathan Haskel, and Sam Schild, developed Copernicus Health to address Type 2 diabetes complications that are largely preventable. In an effort to lower hospital costs and reduce the incidence of adverse outcomes, Copernicus Health provides a comprehensive mobile platform to engage and motivate patients to meet evidence-based metrics proven to reduce the serious complications that result from poorly managed diseases.

Using gamification, the application allows patients to receive points for taking their medicine, self-educating about their disease through the app’s embedded learning tools, and monitoring key clinical metrics obtained at the doctor’s office. Once patients accumulate a pre-determined point volume, they become eligible for rewards in the form of direct cash infusions sent to their reloadable Copernicus debit cards or discounts to use at healthy lifestyle businesses, such as fitness centers and farmers’ markets. To help ensure accuracy and real health improvements, users are only eligible for cash rewards after having their lab values verified by their physician.

“Chronic disease management is often one of the most difficult processes to change within the vulnerable community because it requires not only an improvement in diet and lifestyle, but also an improvement in health literacy, or one’s understanding of his or her disease,” said Nahass. “Copernicus Health aims to meet this need by providing a product that educates patients and encourages healthy behavior.”

Submissions were judged on the following criteria: creativity, impact (i.e., ability of the intervention to improve health outcomes of vulnerable populations and reduce costs within a year’s time), feasibility of implementation, and sustainability.

The Nicholson Foundation funded the Healthcare Delivery Challenge as part of its commitment to stimulate a culture of innovation across New Jersey’s healthcare institutions that serve at-risk populations. “The students and faculty from the Rutgers community are helping to lead the way for a healthier New Jersey for all residents,” said Joan Randell, chief operating officer of The Nicholson Foundation. “Their innovative ideas, tenacious problem-solving skills, and commitment to reaching at-risk populations will help change the future of healthcare and the lives of patients in New Jersey.”

The Nicholson Foundation & Rutgers Healthcare Delivery Challenge also supports the theme of Rutgers University’s strategic plan to “improve the health and wellness of individuals and populations” by addressing health challenges, locally and globally.

“Those of us at Rutgers who participated in the Challenge are quite proud of the creative, multi-disciplinary concepts the teams developed, many of which have real potential to benefit our state’s residents,” said Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, associate vice president for economic development at Rutgers. “This exciting learning and public service opportunity came about because of The Nicholson Foundation’s generosity, which we greatly appreciate.”

About the Finalists & Judges

In addition to Copernicus Health, two other student and faculty finalist teams also presented their innovations during the ceremony.

Team “Save A Neck” created BreatheNVS, an application that directs patients to educate themselves and share information with their physicians on noninvasive management of their respiratory symptoms to ‘save their necks’ from invasive tubes, which are commonly used for patients with breathing muscle weakness. BreatheNVS educates patients about the benefits of noninvasive ventilation and provides them with the necessary resources in evidence-based medicine to seek and receive optimal care.

Team “MAP Training” presented its new intervention that combines mental and physical (MAP) exercises to help women overcome severe stress and trauma caused by homelessness, sexual or physical abuse, and mental illness. The intervention was translated from neuroscientific studies that discuss the pairing of aerobic exercise and learning. MAP Training combines 30 minutes of silent meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise patterned after the popular Zumba dance exercise program.

All teams were evaluated by the following expert judges: Mike Wiley, vice president of Foundation Venture Capital Group; Mark Robson, dean of Rutgers Agricultural and Urban Programs; Denise Rodgers, vice chancellor for interprofessional programs for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences; Wen Dombrowski, aging, healthcare, & technology advisor for Resonate Health; Frank Sonnenberg, medical director of clinical information systems for Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Eric Jahn, senior associate dean of community health for Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Sabrina Chase, assistant professor and director for joint urban systems PhD program in urban health; Jasmine Cordero, managing director of center for urban entrepreneurship & economic development at Rutgers Business School; and, Gary Minkoff, instructor of professional practice for Rutgers Business School, department of management & global business.

Healthcare Innovation Taking Off in New Jersey

The Healthcare Delivery Challenge is the latest in The Nicholson Foundation’s efforts to boost healthcare innovation in New Jersey and bring cutting-edge services to the healthcare safety net. Other Nicholson efforts within this area include a new grants program with the Center for Care Innovations—a California-based nonprofit—to support innovation within New Jersey’s safety-net hospitals and care delivery systems, and a collaboration with New Jersey Health Foundation to implement an Innovations Grants Program that will award $500,000 in grants to healthcare innovators in New Jersey. Since the start of 2015, the Foundation has committed more than $1 million to fund these three efforts.

About The Nicholson Foundation: The Nicholson Foundation works to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare for vulnerable populations in New Jersey by transforming how it is paid for and delivered. The Foundation’s approach emphasizes partnerships and performance-based grant making; its goal is sustainable systems reform. For more information about the Foundation, visit

About Rutgers: Established in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation’s premier public research universities, educating more than 65,000 students. Rutgers’ flagship, based in New Brunswick, is the only public institution in New Jersey represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities. Rutgers is a member of the Big Ten Conference and its academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation – a consortium of 15 world-class research universities. Rutgers is among the top 30 universities nationally for total R&D funding. The Office of Research and Economic Development provides a central point for industry to access Rutgers and a new website,

About Health 2.0 Developer Challenge Program: With more than $7M awarded in prizes to-date, Health 2.0’s Developer Challenge Programs foster online competitions aimed at tackling the most complex challenges we face in health care. The world’s top developers, designers, health care professionals and entrepreneurs compete in these challenges, pilot programs and code-a-thons to create and prototype innovative applications and tools. These competitions leverage funding, market reach and validation that only Health 2.0 can provide. 



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