Kate Scheffler

Recognizing a Gap in the Delivery of Health Care: The Identification of Major Themes

Recognizing A Gap in Healthcare



Guest Post written by: Kate Scheffler

A demographic that is currently underrepresented in healthcare is college-age students. Recognizing a gap in the delivery of healthcare, Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI) partnered up with Arizona State University (ASU)  and began the extensive process of addressing this need. In an effort to gain student’s perspective on health issues, four undergraduates from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, as well as a medical student from Mayo Medical School were asked to participate in the developmental stages of the project.

Every year, Mayo Clinic provides the opportunity for select students to participate in research alongside Mayo researchers through the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program. This program attracts science and economics majors at select private colleges throughout Minnesota and offers opportunities for students to evaluate the commercial potential for inventions and discoveries by Mayo Clinic physicians and researchers. Last summer, four students from St. Olaf College participated in the program and had the opportunity to take part in a unique project for the Center for Innovation. This project focused on identifying how Mayo Clinic could develop a relationship with college-age students in order to improve their overall well-being. Instead of the typical laboratory work that is associated with the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, St. Olaf students were asked to work on research that was based on behavioral analysis. This project focused on studying student health using a problem solving technique called "design thinking."

“It became an opportunity for the students to learn about the approach to innovation and design thinking through a nontraditional student project—rather than start with the problem definition, they were instructed to start the process of interviewing students at St. Olaf College to understand their needs. Through this process, the students were introduced to the CFI approach.” Barbara Spurrier, the Administrative Director of CFI, stated.

In order to determine the goals, values, and fears of college students’ decision making and perspective on their health, St. Olaf students used a variety of tactics ranging from conversations with their peers to organized focus groups sessions. After months of data collecting on students’ perceptions on their health, four themes were identified: being stuck in a routine, living in the future, low self-understanding, and the inability to learn from failure. Based on these identified themes, a student from the Mayo Medical School condensed the ideas by creating mind maps which connected the ideas laid out by the St. Olaf students.

Through their work, the St. Olaf students offered a lot of the foundational work about understanding student needs that will help shape and contribute to the overall project. The next phase of this project involves collecting additional data regarding student perspective on their specific health needs. In an effort to gain more perspectives, we would like to open up the discussion to the public. What are your thoughts on the biggest stressors students face that influence their health?


Watch the MISP presentation here. 


Kate Scheffler

Kate Scheffler is a contributing writer from the University of Minnesota Rochester.