Mass General's Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) hopes a summit and hack-a-thon will produce innovative ideas for preventing gun violence.

Kristian R. Olson, MD, MPH, DTM&H, is director of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech). Based at Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, CAMTech is a global network of partners focused on driving health innovation. A pediatrician and internist, Dr. Olson is also a member of the Core Educator Faculty at Mass General and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

In a recent interview, Dr. Olson discussed the Gun Violence Prevention Challenge Summit & Hack-a-thon, which CAMTech will host on April 13-15, 2018. The event will employ a public health approach to gun violence prevention by generating innovations that can address gun safety, mental health, community resilience and policy. 

These events produce the sparks of ideas that really should be nurtured to move forward.

Why is CAMTech organizing the Gun Violence Prevention Challenge Summit & Hack-a-thon?

When we were thinking about how to direct our open innovation platform most effectively, we asked ourselves what we cared about. After the Las Vegas shootings, one thing that arose from our own team members as well as from people in our network was whether we could do something about gun violence prevention. And so, we just put a stake in the ground and said, ‘We are going to plan this event.’ This was well in advance of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but they were a tragic reminder of how urgently action is needed in this sector.

How is the summit related to the hack-a-thon?

We have had a lot of calls with gun violence prevention experts, including from Mass General’s Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. For the summit, they are really interested in our approach of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and wished to avoid focus on common silos of education, law enforcement, mental health or clinical care. It is followed by the hack-a-thon as an action step following these rich discussions. The hack-a-thon uniquely encourages participants to work towards a solution in real time.

Kristian R Olson, MD, MPH, DTM&H
Kristian R Olson, MD, MPH, DTM&H

The idea is for experts in the field and people who have been affected by gun violence to highlight their pain points and areas for innovation. Those pain points are challenges that we want people to work on overcoming.

What sorts of participants will take part in this hackathon?

Gun violence prevention touches on many aspects of society. We’re looking at people from public health, clinical medicine, engineering design and business. We also want gun owners, law enforcement officials and people who have been affected by gun violence. We already have a great mix of people applying.

What do you hope to accomplish?

We never know what the outcome of these events will be.  However, we have done 22 of them in India, Uganda and here in the United States and something amazing always results. These events produce the sparks of ideas that really should be nurtured to move forward.

We anticipate that the actual innovations in this case will likely involve communications strategies, community resilience and innovative use of technologies to help solve problems. A less tangible but real outcome is the ecosystem that can come about by having people in the same room who may have never met but are passionate about the same problems. This helps to spark continued discussions within a new community of colleagues.

Stimulating novel solutions to challenges that people face is right within our mission.

What are some other public health issues that CAMTech has tackled at these events?

We’ve done everything from maternal-newborn health in India and Uganda to road safety to diabetes. Here in Massachusetts, we have also worked on the opioid epidemic.

How do such efforts fit into Mass General’s mission?

Mass General is really a global leader with innovation at our core. Stimulating novel solutions to challenges that people face is right within our mission.

To learn more about how you can support CAMTech and other Mass General Global Health programs, please contact us.

For more information about the Gun Violence Prevention Challenge Summit & Hack-a-thon, please visit our website. If you would like to contribute to improving gun violence prevention, please apply to attend the Gun Violence Prevention Challenge Summit & Hack-a-thon by April 6, 2018.