Providing Access to Excellence
Kavina Patel and Farhan Ahmad
Best friends fighting a homeless epidemic
It’s a friendship that began their freshman year of college at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and since their first encounter a year ago, Kavina Patel and Farhan Ahmad are conquering great things together.
Together the duo, who are both students in the Facilitated Acceptance into Medical Education (FAME) program and Honors College, are planning on launching VideoMed, a platform allowing homeless users to video conference with a licensed mental health provider.
“There are numerous obstacles in delivering healthcare to the homeless right now,” said Farhan, 19. “VideoMed uses computers and videoconferencing to connect mentally ill homeless individuals with doctors who can help them.”
It was with the nomination from Ann R. Eisenberg, of the Honors College, that the duo were able to attend the Student Entrepreneurship Fellowship (SEF), an intensive six-week program allowing students to develop a new idea while learning entrepreneurial skills.
During the program, students in teams of two, representing all undergraduate campuses in the University of Texas System, were taught a variety of skills, such as pitching ideas to investors, achieving sustained funding, marketing and international business. Aside from learning what it takes to be a savvy business leader, they were also asked to launch a startup.
That’s where the idea for VideoMed came to be. After interviewing more than 100 homeless men and women in the streets of Austin, Kavina and Farhan noticed a strong need for mental health services in the homeless community.
“We found that mental illness is a prime factor that bars recuperation in homeless individuals,” said Kavina, 19. “Lots of them have mental illnesses but aren’t aware of it, or don’t consider the illness as a priority. But it’s a condition that definitely needs to be taken into consideration if they want to find employment or enhance productivity.”
VideoMed, took first place at SEF, beating twenty other ideas and earning the pair $3,000 to help jumpstart their nonprofit.
While VideoMed began as a summer project, both Farhan and Kavina are dedicated to seeing it become a reality. Currently they are working on securing grants and donations, and are in talks to launch the program with a homeless shelter in Austin. If successful, they plan on expanding throughout Texas.
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