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Programs in Education

MED 235: Designing Research-Based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems 

Photo: Children living with Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) gather in Kanchipuram District, in the northeast state of Tamil Nadu, to watch TeachAids HIV education.

Course Description

**Update as of 11/30:** Due to unforeseen circumstances, this course has been canceled for Winter 2024. Dr. Sorcar will be teaching Reducing Health Disparities and Closing the Achievement Gap through Health Integration in Schools this Winter (EDUC 429, PEDS 229, HUMBIO 122E) and hopes to offer this course again in the future. 

The excitement around social innovation and entrepreneurship has spawned numerous startups focused on tackling world problems, particularly in the fields of education and health. The best social ventures are launched with careful consideration paid to research, design, and efficacy. This course offers students an immersive educational experience into understanding how to effectively develop, evaluate, and scale social ventures. Students will also get a rare “behind-the-scenes” glimpse at the complex ethical dilemmas social entrepreneurs have tackled to navigate the odds.

Partnered with TeachAids, a global award-winning nonprofit (scaled to 82 countries), this course introduces students to the major principles of research-based design and integrates instruction supported by several game-changing social leaders.

Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, you will work in groups to identify the next health education topic for TeachAids’ continued expansion. This class culminates in a formal presentation to TeachAids Advisors and an interdisciplinary panel of diverse Silicon Valley leaders.

Photo: MED 235 students celebrating final presentation day. 


Dr. Piya Sorcar is the founder and CEO of TeachAids, an Adjunct Affiliate at Stanford’s School of Medicine and a Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health. She leads a team of world experts in medicine, public health, and education to address some of the most pressing public health challenges. MIT Technology Review named her to its TR35 list of the top 35 innovators in the world under 35 and she was the youngest recipient of Stanford’s Alumni Excellence in Education Award.

Photo: His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with Dr. Piya Sorcar, as he offers wisdom on solving the world’s most pressing problems. 

Sample Projects

  • Expansion of HIV education programs into Indonesia, Malawi, Russia, South Africa, Vietnam and Brazil. (TeachAids)
  • Innovating technology solutions to educate on head injuries for vulnerable populations including children and military veterans. (TeachAids)
  • Improving livelihoods through innovative low-cost audio computers designed for the learning needs of preliterate populations living in the poorest areas in the world. (Literacy Bridge Case Study)
  • Providing a fundamental human right to sanitation in the slums of Kenya by increasing access to and usage of hygienic sanitation facilities. (Sanergy)
  • Exploring simple, locally made technology that can be used by local people to convert locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers. (Eco-Fuel Africa)

Youth gather at a church in Cyanika, Rwanda to watch the TeachAids HIV animations. Read more

Course speakers

Guest speakers will include world-class experts and social entrepreneurs in philanthropy, medicine, communications, education, and technology.

Student testimonials

Here are some things past students had to say about the course:

“Must take it! I can confidently say this class has been the most influential (and fun) course of my college career. Not only did I meet mentors who have created opportunities to do research with experts at Harvard, Duke and Boston University, but it’s also what made me decide medical school was the right path for me.” —Sepehr Asgari

“I’m so excited to hear this class is back!!! Easily my favorite class I ever took and truly a peak of my time at Stanford!” —Nathanial Braun

“This class changed my life! After taking this course, I decided to change my major and career path. We got to learn from so many amazing presenters and social entrepreneurs — truly inspiring.” —Katie Olsen

“The structure, content, and mission of this class was transformational! It came at a pivotal time in my life and led to my joining TeachAids, followed by the Peace Corps in Benin. Several years later, I still apply the lessons from this course as I now enter the MBA program at MIT to produce impactful health communication strategies.” —Clemence Couteau

“Take it! Extremely impactful class. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m using a lot of the principles I learned in this course 10+ years later.” —Kesaobaka Modukanele

Eligibility and Requirements

This course is open to undergraduate students, graduate students, and medical students. It is offered for 3 credits (grade or pass/fail). Despite grading status, or cross-listing, all students will be expected to thoughtfully engage in classroom discussions and invest in a meaningful way toward their final group project.

Top students are offered internships at TeachAids, with the opportunity for funding through Haas Fellowship, and/or a TA or CA position for the following year’s class.

This class counts as required coursework towards the following programs: