Category: News

Kickstarting Healthcare Innovation with the Rothberg Catalyzer Prototype Fund

With support from the Rothberg Catalyzer program, the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) offered grants of up to $1,000 this semester to kickstart student teams who are developing innovative hardware or AI solutions to healthcare issues. These small grants — offered through the newly created Rothberg Catalyzer Prototype Fund — aim to support the earlier stages of Yale’s pipeline for student innovation in medical tech, helping students advance projects that might ultimately become candidates for the campus’ annual Rothberg Catalyzer Prize (which awards $15,000 to an outstanding student team) or other opportunities.

This year’s recipients of the Rothberg Catalyzer Prototype Fund grants included students from Yale College, School of Management (SOM), Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS), and School of Medicine (YSM) addressing medical challenges such as arthritis, opioid overdose, and lung cancer. Over the past month, we spoke with the teams behind five projects to learn more.


Markea Dickinson (SOM ’20) and Debbie Dickinson // Seeing nothing discreet, natural, stylish, and effective on the market, the ThermaBand team seeks to provide thermal comfort to users, especially those suffering from hot flashes, through a wearable smart thermostat.

“My mom is both the co-founder and the customer, so we really have that connection to what the customer wants and needs.”

How did you come up with the idea for ThermaBand?

Markea Dickinson: I pursued my MBA in the first place because I knew I wanted to do entrepreneurship — I knew I wanted to make people’s lives better in some way. But I didn’t have an idea. I thought that maybe a bright idea would pop into my head! That never happened to me…but it actually happened to my mom. My mom is in her fifties, menopausal, and she’s been having bad hot flashes recently. This past September, she called and said that she had a really interesting idea — a wearable device that addresses this issue. Then she became my co-founder, and we created ThermaBand.

As you continue prototyping, what goals do you have in mind?

M. Dickinson: The goal in the short term is to target the 30 million women in the US who are menopausal and to provide a solution for them to not have to suffer in silence with hot flashes. Longer-term, we want to look at the global market and other groups that need this technology. It goes far beyond the niche of menopausal women. We’ve been tapping into reasons why people experience thermal discomfort, like hormonal imbalances or temperature swings, so the end goal really is to allow people to have a solution to make their bodies comfortable wherever they are, whenever they’d like.