As a curious pre-medical student Sumun Khetpal, C/W ’17, was inspired by a Wharton healthcare entrepreneurship class. Now she’s launching a social enterprise with three other Penn classmates, with a mission to improve healthcare access for millions of American.
Many of us envisioned an entrepreneurial college experience so ambitious and so inspiring that it went down in the books.
Our history revered the narratives of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, of Elon Musk and Tesla, and of Steve Jobs and Apple. We pictured the scenes of computer codes written on dorm room windows, and late night brainstorming sessions of the “next big thing.” The narrative featured eager college students, bootstrapping, hackathons, and a big break. It felt empowering to be accepted into an institution that prided entrepreneurship — to the extent that I did.
As a student in the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management (LSM), I engage in a dual-degree curriculum that intertwines science and business—fields that at first glance have an ambiguous connection.
While my sights were initially set on medical school, Penn has pushed me to conclude that business could serve as the matrix to tackle healthcare’s inefficiencies, and even solve the world’s problems.
And now, I’ve found myself working with four inspirational peers to launch Ride Health, our social venture that alleviates transportation barriers for low-resource and low-income patients.
It started with a late night shift in the emergency department of a North Carolina hospital, where an elderly man had just been discharged. But he had no ride home, and was left stranded.
Imran Cronk, C’16, was working that night and soon learned that reliable non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) is a significant barrier for many patients, especially those in low-income communities; each year millions of Americans delay or cancel medical appointments due to their inability to access transportation.
These missed appointments, which impede patients’ ability to get care, are linked to over $150 billion in downstream healthcare costs that could be avoided.
The nation’s current solution to transportation issues is Logisticare, a Medicaid contract that provides rides for low-income patients. But the system is flawed: it entails piles of paperwork, and rides must be requested far in advance. We began exploring the idea of using a ride-share system—like millenial favorites Uber or Lyft—which spurred many conversations with Penn Medicine leaders, Wharton faculty, Pennsylvania state secretaries of health and transportation, and venture capitalists.
The momentum behind Ride Health has been empowering. Our mission is to improve healthcare access for vulnerable populations and reduce risk for healthcare providers.
We now look to pilot our idea in the world, and are determined to make an impact for the most vulnerable patients.
Ride Health has made my undergraduate experience one-of-a-kind. It serves as my first step in directly engaging in advocacy, in stepping out of my comfort zone, and in representing a population so different from myself. Every day, I am inspired by our team’s relentless dedication to the cause and our ability to merge a private innovation with a public need.
About the author: Sumun Khetpal is a Wharton and Penn senior in the Roy and Diana Vagelos Dual-Degree Program in Life Sciences & Management. She is the Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of Ride Health, along with classmates Imran Cronk (C’16), Christine Yang (C/W ’17), and Vedant Thyagaraj (C/W ’19).