Yale EMBA: Accelerating Healthcare Innovation

After forming a bond while running together, EMBA classmates Melissa Davis ’17 and Salimah Velji MPH ’12, SOM ’17 joined forces for their second-year Self-Directed Study project: launching the startup MindNest Health.

April 3, 2017
by Melissa Davis ’17 and Salimah Velji MPH ’12, SOM ’17:
Melissa Davis ’17 (left) and Salimah Velji MPH ’12, SOM ’17

When Salimah Velji MPH ’12, SOM ’17 and I matriculated into the MBA for Executives program at Yale SOM, we quickly became great friends and workout buddies. As part of our workout plan we regularly (or irregularly) found ourselves doing three- to five-mile runs across New Haven. These runs would take us across the New Haven Green, past Woolsey Hall, and onto St. Ronan Street, which is lined by large homes and gardens. At this point we generally would stop running and walk, taking in the beauty of the street. This is where the magic happened. We talked, and talked and talked. We talked about school, we continued conversations that began in the classroom, and we talked about relationships, career aspirations, and crazy ideas. We traded advice and formed a genuine bond.

A big part of these runs involved brainstorming ideas that we could bring into realization using the knowledge and skills we gained from MBA for Executives coursework. By the end of the summer we had decided to work together to get something off the ground, and the starting point would be our independent study. During the second year of the MBA for Executives program students can either pursue an independent project over the course of the year or take elective courses. Some of us do both. Salimah, who had transitioned earlier in the year to the role of administrative director of clinical operations at Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, was approached by Dr. David Grodberg, medical director of the Yale Child Study Center, to work on a project he had been toiling with, which would eventually become MindNest Health. During a balmy August run, we decided that with Salimah’s new position and my budding interest in healthcare startups, this was the perfect opportunity for the both of us.

MindNest Health is an online platform that delivers evidence-based and scalable parent coaching for parents who have children with behavioral health needs, such as autism spectrum disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and anxiety. The mission of MindNest Health is to improve families’ access to quality behavioral health interventions that are usually available only at academic centers. We know that appropriate care for these children is paramount for their future and that the experiences of a child are a critical factor in molding their place in society as an adult. Early in its inception, MindNest partnered with Health Venture, co-founded by Sri Muthu ’17 and Donna Lecky ’16. MindNest has grown legs and will be soon ready to sprint. We have started a friends and family pilot and are planning to begin larger-scale pilots with insurance companies and a national network of developmental pediatricians. Recently MindNest was awarded a $30,000 Bio Pipeline CT award.

The MBA for Executives program has been the nexus of success for Salimah and me over the past two years. The network that we have created through Yale School of Management is unparalleled by any other that I have been a part of. Moreover, the culture of startups in the healthcare space is strong, largely due to the influence of the Yale Entrepreneurship Institute and the Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology. I took a class, Healthcare Ventures, at the recommendation of Dr. Howard Forman in the spring of my first year. From there I went from having minimal knowledge of healthcare startups to being part of two, MindNest and SepsisDx, which are both growing at an exciting pace. I would not be in this position if I had not joined an MBA program, specifically Yale’s MBA for Executives. But even more than a transformative career experience, this program has bonded me to 60 more dynamic and brilliant people from across all sectors and industries. This program has created a space where two friends can go on a run and launch a partnership.