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Chen and Team Win Award from 2019 NIDA $100K SUD Startup Challenge

July 02, 2019
by Julie Parry

Kevin Chen, MD, fellow, National Clinical Scholars Program, and his team recently won an award as part of the 2019 NIDA $100K SUD Startup Challenge. Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the award is given to 10 winners for their startup projects to improve the well-being of those with substance use disorders.

Chen and his team’s project, RecoverWe, is an online application that aims to help those with substance use disorders find pathways to local, evidence-based options for recovery.

“More than 80% of Americans go online for health information, and it is often the first place they go before seeing their doctor or going to the hospital,” explained Chen. “There are more than 18 million searches a year for opioid-related terms. If you look in the search results online, you'll find ads and a lot of links to predatory places. If you search for addiction help in New Haven, for example, you will see services for facilities in western Massachusetts, Florida, and other distant places that only accept private insurances or self-pay, and many of these do not offer guideline-recommended treatments. Meanwhile, there are several local resources that do offer evidence-based treatments and serve people regardless of insurance status, but these may be buried among all the other results. People who are searching for the first time may not know about these local options. Thus, we saw an opportunity to partner with technology companies, community organizations, clinicians, public agencies, and others to address this issue through our app.”

One of Chen’s mentors, David Fiellin, MD, director, Program in Addiction Medicine and professor of medicine (emergency medicine and public health) applauds Chen and team’s efforts.

“Dr. Chen’s work will help address the unfortunate misinformation and stigma on digital platforms surrounding evidence-based treatment for opiate use disorder that can save lives and improve health. The evidence is clear to national and international authoritative bodies including the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization,” Fiellin said. “This work should help address the major challenge in getting this information to those who most need it.”

Cary Gross, MD, director, National Clinician Scholars Program at Yale and professor of medicine (general internal medicine) and of epidemiology (chronic diseases) agrees.

“Kevin is addressing one of the most important and intractable problems of the opioid epidemic. This problem stretches outside of the walls of our clinics and hospitals - We need to give patients the information they need to access treatment at a time and place that works for them. This is more than mobile health, and that’s what makes Kevin‘s approach so exciting; it is using mobile technology as a way of empowering our patients and our communities,” said Gross.

Chen was drawn to helping more people through entrepreneurship in medicine.

“How can I impact more than just the one patient or family that's in front of me?” asked Chen. “Can I take a good idea and scale it to a community, nationally, or beyond?”

Chen is a graduate of the Department of Internal Medicine’s Primary Care Residency Program. For more information on the program, visit Residency Training Program: Primary Care. To learn more about Chen’s project, visit recoverwe.app.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 02, 2019