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Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education Prize Judges

Meet the expert practitioners and innovators who will serve as the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education prize judges for Startup Yale's 2022 pitch competitions.

The Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education is a $25,000 cash prize awarded to the best student-led venture focused on social innovation in health or education for underserved communities in the United States or low-resource countries.

The Thorne Prize was created in 2014 with generous support from the Thorne family. The gift is managed by InnovateHealth Yale based at the Yale School of Public Health.

Leslie Asanga
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Dr. Asanga is a pharmacist and an entrepreneur with 10+ years of healthcare and entrepreneurship experience. He is the founder and CEO of Pills2Me (an on-demand prescription delivery service) which was launched at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also the co-founder and CEO of UrPharm (an easy way to search, find, and pay for medications in sub-Saharan Africa). He is an innovator and very passionate about using technology to solve healthcare problems especially in vulnerable communities.

Billy Huang
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Billy Huang is a biologist-turned-entrepreneur born and raised in New York City. Growing up in a low-income and first-generation household and as a person with a disability, he is passionate about addressing intersectional issues related to poverty, health, and access to economic opportunity. Most recently, Billy created a startup based around improving social determinants of health with an emphasis on housing and homelessness. Through his startup, Source Development Hub, Billy has had the opportunity to work with multiple regional and national non-profit organizations, including the Urban Institute and Corporation for Supportive Housing, on projects mapping affordable housing throughout Connecticut. His current projects include the development of a housing marketplace specifically tailored for low-and-moderate income renters with partners in both the nonprofit and real estate industries. Additionally, Billy is also the Director of Data Analytics and Impact at the Housing Collective, a regional nonprofit focused on collective impact work spanning the homelessness services and affordable housing sectors. His work there includes the development of a Housing Innovation Lab to foster tech-focused interventions aimed at understanding and addressing homelessness and affordable housing. In a research capacity, Billy has also collaborated with researchers at Yale and Rutgers on studies at the intersections between technology, mental health, and homelessness. He is additionally collaborating with MIT Solve, a social innovation marketplace, as a data consultant to develop models for analyzing the impact of Solve on the success of their global venture teams. Complementing his professional work, Billy advocates for disability rights at the municipal level by chairing the New Haven Commission on Disabilities, where he has been working on legislation to improve citywide elevator ordinances, and at the national level through the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, where he has consulted on multiple patient-centered outcomes research studies. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in biology and history from MIT as well as an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

Kaveh Khoshnood
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Kaveh Khoshnood, PhD, MPH is the new Faculty Director for InnovateHealth Yale. Kaveh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and the Director of the BA-BS/MPH Program at the Yale School of Public Health. Kaveh’s research interests are the epidemiology and prevention of HIV/AIDS; ethical issues in research with vulnerable populations and the health of conflict-affected and forcibly displaced populations, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region. Kaveh teaches courses on public health ethics and global health. Kaveh’s favorite part of his job is mentoring students who are committed to tackle public health issues, especially those affecting marginalized communities domestically and internationally. Kaveh is an immigrant from Iran who believes in providing second chances to those who were forced to leave their countries due to violent conflict. Kaveh is grateful for the educational and mentorship opportunities he has had and eager to provide similar support to those in need.

Rafael Pérez-Escamilla
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Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Ph.D., is Professor of Public Health, Director of the Office of Public Health Practice, and Director of the Global Health Concentration at the Yale School of Public Health. He is the PI of the Yale-Griffin CDC Prevention Research Center (PRC). His global public health nutrition and food security research program has contributed to improvements in breastfeeding and other maternal, infant and young child nutrition outcomes, iron deficiency anemia among infants, household food security, and early child development. His domestic health inequities research involves assessing the impact of community health workers at improving behavioral and metabolic outcomes in vulnerable communities at risk of type 2 diabetes. He has published over 300 research articles, 3 books/monographs, and numerous journal supplements, book chapters, and technical reports. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (elected in 2019) and served in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Food and Nutrition Board from 2012-18. He is a member of the Newman's Own Foundation Board of Directors. He has been a senior advisor to maternal-child community nutrition programs as well as household food security measurement projects funded by the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the U.S. Agency for International Development, The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH),The World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Governments in Latin America & Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Europe. He obtained his BS in Chemical Engineering from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and his MS in Food Science and his PhD in Nutrition from the University of California at Davis. His postdoctoral training at UC Davis focused on the link between nutrition and early childhood development.

Margaret Yates Thorne
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Margaret Yates Thorne is the Managing Partner of Sociable Weavers, providing seed investing to transformational start-ups in education and healthcare. Margie is also the owner of Niknats, a personalized needlepoint gift business. She has worked for the last thirty years with a wide range of non-profits, providing support in start-up management, fundraising, and finance. Margie has chaired the boards of The Bronx Preparatory Charter School and Peer Health Exchange and served on many boards including Student Sponsor Partners and READ. Margie has a BA from Yale and also studied educational psychology at Columbia’s Teacher’s College. Prior to her work with non-profits, she worked for fifteen years at Citigroup. Margie is married to Nate Thorne, previously head of private equity at Merrill Lynch and Blackrock, and is the mother of two sons. The whole family are Yale graduates. They are actively engaged in restorative agriculture in the Hudson Valley.