Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI): What Makes Innovation Stick? (2018-2019)


Although 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, the system of public health and health services is not adequately organized to promote independence. Even the most developed and well-resourced nations have medically underserved regions and communities where the presence of disability is compounded by inequities in social determinants of health.

In 2016, the Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) launched to engage students, faculty, the Duke community and external partners to examine the system supporting transitions in health and healthcare for people who experience an acute illness or injury and are newly living with disability. With almost a dozen projects in multiple countries over 18 months, coupled with historical evidence that it takes 17 years for evidence-based solutions to be adopted as standard practice, GANDHI team members have asked: What makes an innovation stick? Why does it take so long to scale up interventions?

Project Description

This 2018-19 Bass Connections project (“GANDHI 3.0”) will create a cohort of students committed to designing and implementing systems changes. The aim is to help implement, spread or scale up innovation at Duke and in Durham County for underserved and underrepresented populations experiencing transitions in health or healthcare. The 2018-19 team’s goal is to build capacity for social intrapreneurship: people who will work as a member within their organization to develop and promote solutions to social and system challenges.  

Using Duke case examples of programs and interventions, students will first learn the fundamentals of program planning, theories of change and implementation science. This type of real world research identifies barriers and facilitators and studies methods to promote the adoption of interventions and policies. Skills learned will then be applied to Duke projects aimed to improve healthcare, health and health policy. In the spring semester, teams of students will work directly with faculty partners on scaling up Duke initiatives. While working on these projects, students will meet weekly as peer mentors, creating a cohort of social intrapreneurs at Duke.

Anticipated Outcomes

IHI Open School Practicum Certificate completed by interested students; experience and leadership with a real-world project on implementation, improvement or scaling an innovation; team-based collaboration that will advance meaningful real-world projects; presentations at a regional or national conference; online publications and dissemination; inaugural peer network of students to create change from within


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019  

  • Fall 2018: Didactic and case-based learning; team problem-solving; applications for project teams; mentored projects begin
  • Spring 2019: Project work continues; peer network launches; project dissemination

Team Outcomes to Date

Increasing Patient Ambulation at Duke University Hospital using Student Volunteers (poster by Deepti Agnihotri, Isabelle Doan, Gloria Hong, Alexandria Hurley, Athina Vrosgou, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Help Desk: A Student-Led Initiative to Address Social Determinants of Health in Durham, N.C. (poster by Sahil Sandhu, Lillian Blanchard, Veronica Sotelo Munoz, Jackie Xu, Connor Drake, Janet Prvu Bettger, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)


Help Desk: A Student Initiative to Address the Social Determinants of Health

This Team in the News

Duke Recognized for Culture of Wellness

Faculty Perspectives: Janet Prvu Bettger

Janet Prvu Bettger on Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Help Desk: Students Seek to Address Social Determinants of Health

Sahil Sandhu T’20 Discusses Durham, NC Research Project

Last Week’s Event Was Showtime for Student Global Health Researchers

Duke Students from across the University Share Their Global Health Research

See related teams, Help Desk: A Student Initiative to Help Address the Social Determinants of Health (2019-2020) and Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) (2017-2018), and related Data+ summer project, Smartphones and the Sixth Vital Sign (2018).

Bass Connections students in China

Team Leaders

  • Janet Prvu Bettger, School of Medicine-Orthopaedic Surgery

/graduate Team Members

  • Cherie Conley, Nursing-PHD
  • Veronica Sotelo Munoz, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Deepti Agnihotri, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Isabelle Doan, Public Policy Studies (AB), Biology (BS2)
  • Alexandria Hurley, Biology (BS), Medieval & Renaiss St (AB2)
  • Sarah McMahon, Psychology (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Sahil Sandhu, Program II (BS)
  • Athina Vrosgou, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Jacqueline Xu, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Jaehan Yi
  • Amy Zhao, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Matthew Nash, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Gillian Sanders Schmidler, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences|Margolis Center for Health Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Lincoln Community Health Center
  • Partnership for a Healthy Durham