Joanne Zhou | 2014 | Interns

Joanne Zhou (’15)

Appleton, WI

Dana Mead Intern

Biology Major

US Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Business Management and Transformation

I spent my summer interning at the Department of Health and Human Services in the internal consulting branch, the Office of Business Management and Transformation. While there I was able to apply the process of interdisciplinary collaboration I learned at MIT in the context of policy. President Obama’s Open Government Initiative has opened up terabytes of government data for public use, including data on population health as measured by behavioral patterns, cost of care, utilization rates, etc. I worked with the IdeaLab and HHS's Open Innovation Manager to help visualize that data so that patients, providers, payers, and legislators could make better informed decisions. To accomplish this task, we designed and launched a 3-month prize competition called The HHS VizRisk Challenge (Visualizing Behavioral Risk) to unite federal agencies, programmers, and public health experts with the untapped vigor of concerned citizens in creating innovative software and infographics. Participants in this Challenge have 3 months to work with 9 federal organizations and compete for $15,000 in prizes.

It was an incredible opportunity to delve into the healthcare challenges currently facing our nation, and I was fortunate to be able to take ownership of this project and really draw upon my experiences at MIT in making this Challenge. I developed an appreciation for the power of open data, open innovation, and open government, and got to be part of the movement towards an increasingly transparent, accessible, and tech-savvy government.

While in DC, I was fascinated by how diverse the population was. Not only did people come from all States, but from all over the world and all disciplines to engage in policymaking and policy implementation. I met medical doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, economists, business leaders, and engineers all in the same building, working on policy to better the health of Americans. Hearing their perspectives and meeting other top leaders has opened my eyes to fields that combine science and technology with policy and management. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to be immersed in an environment where diverse skills and backgrounds are celebrated, united, and harnessed to make change.