Six groups of aspiring health entrepreneurs at the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS) are participating in a six-month Creation Phase meant to identify and solve healthcare delivery problems in Liberia.
ULCHS, through the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) under its innovation program: Health Entrepreneurship Advancement Leveraging Research (HEALR), launched the USAID-funded BRIDGE:U – Liberia project last October to expose participants to strategic approaches to identifying, researching, and developing solution-oriented ideas as an entrepreneur.
It is intended to assist aspiring entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to health problems/challenges in Liberia.
The Creation Phase, which kicked off at UL Medical School in Congo Town on January 24, 2023, followed the Ideation Phase that ran from October to December 2022.
In the Ideation Phase, participants generated some ideas and how they could be put into perspective.
Six groups are involved in the Creation Phase after being found eligible from the Ideation phase.
The six-month Creation Phase is expected to conclude in June 2023, followed by an expected awarding of small grants to the winners.
In an interview at the start of the Creation Phase, Dr. Plenseh D. Paye Mcclain, BRIDGE: U Liberia Deputy Director for Innovation said for the next six months that the creation phase will run, they have a team of mentors, some from Boston, U.S.A, and others from Ghana.
Among them, she said there are experienced people with 30 to 40 years of experience.
Dr. Mcclain told the interview that the mentors want to help the participants identify certain health problems and issues.
She said they want participants to be able to come down and create a business from those problems that have been identified.
While some of the participants are nurses, and student doctors, Dr. Mcclain explained that some are not health practitioners. She said some of the participants are public health specialists, and two are faculty members.
“This is entrepreneurship, and this is innovation. So we are talking about entrepreneurship, making business. But it’s not just about making business, it’s about finding new ways,” said Dr. Mcclain.
Giving an example, Dr. Mcclain explained that participants are seeking to solve how filling out a form that probably takes patients about 10 minutes at hospitals can now be done in a lesser time.
“But how can you do it differently [so] that maybe that form can just be filled in for just two minutes, and that’s it and the patient is able to get to the next step? These are things that we are talking about when it comes to innovation,” said Dr. Mcclain.
She said the idea is to just change the way things are done a little bit which can be utilized in the healthcare delivery system.
According to her, there are a lot of entrepreneurs in Liberia, but what is particular about the BRIDGE:U innovation team is that it is concerned with healthcare.
When it comes to healthcare and entrepreneurship, she said it is very difficult because ethical issues are looked at a lot.
“Because you deal with patients, you are talking about health, and you are talking about patients, you are talking about human beings. So if you don’t do it right, the person will die and that becomes a problem,” she continued.