Insights in health & wellness branding


MIT’s Hacking Medicine

23 May 2019   |   Lynnette Hunter

A common denominator of the staff here at AbelsonTaylor is a deep-seated desire to make a difference in people’s health. Several years ago, we began a productive partnership with a like-minded group at MIT’s Hacking Medicine. We’re excited to continue that partnership by recently sponsoring and partnering with them for the Grand Hack 2019.  This was one of our most engaging years with the team from MIT. We actively mentored teams participating in the Grand Hack, where our expertise as communicators was critically needed and appreciated.  While onsite, we had the opportunity to connect and capture unique conversations for Icons.Health™, where interesting and prominent players in tech and healthcare discussed all kinds of health related ideas on camera.  Stay tuned as we start sharing these great conversations in the upcoming weeks on Icons.Health™.  In addition, we also spent time meeting and networking with sponsors and mentors participating in the Grand Hack, which continues to open doors for future AbelsonTaylor collaborations.

This year was the most heavily attended Grand Hack events of all time, with somewhere between 400 and 500 hacker participants and dozens of mentors, sponsors, and organizers. The Hack featured four problem areas to focus on: Cancer, Mental Health, Optimizing Surgical Outcomes, and Assistive Tech and Rehab. On Friday evening, nearly 50 problems were pitched for each track.

AbelsonTaylor sent five people to Boston for this string of events. Noah Lowenthal and Mitch Apley supported the Icons.Health™ content capture. Lynnette Hunter, Christopher Dimmock, and Leah Shanholtz, all went to be mentors at the Grand Hack itself. The participants we mentored had an unstoppable drive to solve the biggest healthcare problems our world is facing.

After narrowing the lists of ideas, the mentors helped focus groups’ attention and challenge their assumptions. As teams faced all kinds of mental and logistical challenges around their ideas, you could feel the tension in the air. But part of what makes this event so special is the access to support from healthcare professionals and others in science and technology to guide teams and keep them from going off the proverbial rails. The topics were vastly different, and the looming 48-hour deadline created urgency to iterate quickly.

Finally, teams prepared their pitches and got great advice from various mentors about how to best present their material. For their final presentations, each team had three minutes to set up their problem, reveal their solution, and reason out their business plans. Prizes were awarded for the top three presentations in each category.

The ethos of the Grand Hack says that even if your team didn’t win, but especially if you did, you can continue forward as a group and hopefully turn your idea into a legitimate venture. Over the past 8-9 years, teams from the Grand Hack have raised over $250,000,000 (a quarter of a billion) in startup and venture capital. Their biggest success story to date is Pill Pack. A mail order prescription drug fulfillment company that was just acquired by Amazon for a cool billion dollars last fall. Maybe the next Pill Pack just met this past weekend…time will tell.

It is always humbling to realize you’re in a room with 400 geniuses, but it’s also great to be able to contribute to an event that’s designed to shake up health care for the benefit of everyone. We hope to bring our learnings about design thinking, technology, and disruption to help tackle the challenges we face here every day for our clients and ourselves.

To learn more about the Grand Hack, follow this link:

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Head shot of post author Lynnette Hunter

About the Author

Lynnette joined AbelsonTaylor over 15 years ago as a traffic coordinator. Over the years, she built a deep understanding of agency processes and the unique challenges that surround healthcare marketing and advertising—and has helped make some of the most challenging initiatives a reality. That includes assuming leadership roles in digital marketing and consumer engagement. When not at work on her brands, you’ll find Lynnette on the golf course, on the water, or on-the-go with her family.