In 1996, as a sophomore in college, Rebecca Onie had a realization: The health care system in the United States was not set up to diagnose nor treat the socioeconomic issues that lead to poor health, and that health care providers are not given tools to address basic problems like nutrition and housing.
So, while still a sophomore, she co-founded Health Leads, a program that assists low-income patients and their families to access food, heat, and other basic resources they need to be healthy. With the additional insight that college volunteers could be recruited and trained into an elite group just like a college sport team, she found the people and skills needed to produce such an audacious idea. Since then it has grown tremendously, and now operates in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence, and Washington, DC, and in the last year assisted over 8,800 patients.
In 2009, Rebecca was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
Photo: Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation