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'Healthier Life' master's degree blends tech, health care

smartphone app
J.P. Pollak
PAM (Photographic Affect Meter) is a digital emotion assessment application developed by Wellcoin's J.P. Pollak, senior researcher-in-residence at Cornell Tech. It is an example of the type of innovation to be explored by Healthier Life students.

NEW YORK – The creation of a degree program designed to connect health care professionals and technologists was announced Dec. 4 at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech.

An M.S. in information systems with a concentration in “Healthier Life,” the program will confer dual degrees from Cornell and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

A panel discussion hosted in conjunction with the announcement featured health care industry leaders who examined opportunities for Healthier Life graduates with integrated health care and technological skill sets. The panelists were: Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science at Cornell Tech and professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College; Wendy Mayer, vice president for worldwide innovation at Pfizer; Dr. Deneen Vojta, senior vice president of business initiatives and clinical affairs at the Center for Health Reform and Modernization for UnitedHealth Group; Nicholas Altebrando, vice president of product innovation at WebMD; Dr. Curtis Cole, chief information officer at Weill Cornell Medical College; and J.P. Pollak, founder and chief technology officer of Wellcoin and senior researcher-in-residence at Cornell Tech.

The degree program, which begins in fall 2015, is designed to remove barriers between research and application and to reinvent the way people experience and manage health care. The curriculum has been shaped by its founder, Estrin, who is a pioneer in the field of small data and mobile health, with input from industry leaders.

“The health care industry is one of the most complicated and complex to impact as an innovator and entrepreneur,”said Estrin, who also leads the Jacobs Institute’s broader Healthier Life “hub” – an area of study – focused on research and other academic initiatives. “Students in the Healthier Life program will learn how to design new technologies tailored for the context of health care.”

Technology focus areas in the Healthier Life program will include mobile and wearable devices; machine learning and advanced analytics; privacy and security; and user interaction and social media.

Students will have industry mentors and learn how to design new technologies tailored for health care. Such courses as Health Technology; Data and Systems; Medical Literacy; and The Health Care System and Economics will cover opportunities and constraints in this highly regulated and complex field.

“Our mission at Cornell Tech is to bring together faculty, business leaders, entrepreneurs and students to pursue visionary ideas grounded in significant real-world needs, and the Healthier Life hub is a perfect example of this,” said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech. “This new program will produce graduates who will be able to accelerate reform from within the industry, and produce groundbreaking new products that will help all of us live healthier lives.”

“Our health care industry partners will help us infuse real-world field experience and insight into the academic process, to inform and inspire students’ career trajectories,” said Adam Shwartz, director of the Jacobs Institute. “Having the Technion as a partner adds substantial value to our program due to the Technion’s achievements in medicine and in the development of new technologies, and especially its considerable experience creating a startup ecosystem.”

Applications for the program are being accepted. The final curriculum awaits official approval from the Cornell University Board of Trustees. 

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