How Ivelyse Andino Is Transforming the World of Healthcare
Ivelyse Andino, CEO and Founder of Radical Health, is facilitating meaningful conversations to transform healthcare from the ground up to be more equitable for those in historically marginalized communities.
After experiencing firsthand how difficult it is to maneuver through healthcare, Ivelyse set out to create a much more inclusive way of navigation. Since its founding in 2015, Radical Health has invested thousands of hours into conversations that have led to ensuring people better understand their diagnoses. By fostering those important connections at the intersection of community, health, and tech, Radical Health makes sure nobody gets left behind.
We asked Ivelyse how her past experiences have affected her as an entrepreneur, her biggest achievements so far, and what’s on the horizon for Radical Health.
Photo Credit: Derek Fahsbender
Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: How and why did you start working on Radical Health?
A: Growing up in the Bronx I wanted to be a doctor, but quickly discovered the path to medicine is difficult, especially when you're the first person in your family to go to college. As I continued to work in other areas of healthcare, I often noticed I was the only one—only woman, only person of color, only young person—and how this industry didn't reflect my community. This lack of visibility and representation drove me to create Radical Health. It began at my dining room table in 2015. I invited everyone I knew who had any interest in health—teachers, doctors, aunties, folks I met on the street—I welcomed them all to my table. And through open conversations, we started imagining a new world of healthcare. A world that centered and amplified the voices of people who are all too often ignored. A year later we incorporated, and Radical Health has continued to evolve ever since.
Q: What problem does your business solve?
A: Healthcare is complicated. It's even more complicated and intimidating if you are Black, brown, indigenous, an immigrant, or LGBTQ+. At Radical Health, we hold space for conversations that are often not had around health, whether it's through people-to-people exchanges (where we connect directly and learn from one another) or through technology (where we're helping folks know their rights and what questions to ask in a doctor's appointment). We focus on creating a human-centered experience, while also making the process as easy, equitable, and as fair as possible. We're in a space right now where racism is being recognized on a broader scale. And when we think about the future of health and an equitable health care system, it must be reimagined with those most impacted at the forefront.
Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: In many ways, I had to learn to play a game where the rules were never explained to me. It began with figuring out how to navigate school, then evolved when I entered the workforce. I was an underdog, and the cards were stacked against me. After being told for the longest time: "Learn the game, play by the rules, that's how you succeed," I discovered that the system didn't necessarily work for me. So I created a new way of navigating that was much more inclusive.
That concept is central to how I operate as a leader. As a Black and Latina woman, I never really fit in. But living at that intersection of this identity has helped me to create inclusive spaces where others can also see themselves. I had to get used to being uncomfortable, to pushing boundaries, and ultimately working to change the rules of the healthcare game.
Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?
A: The hardest part of this journey is convincing the rest of the world that the experience of Black, brown, and indigenous communities in healthcare is one that is unjust. It's difficult convincing other people that healthcare discrimination is real and that this racism needs to be addressed. The most rewarding part is the community. I am privileged to bear witness to the magical moments during our indigenous circles where folks are seen and heard, often for the first time. Their experiences are affirmed, and they're able to reclaim ownership of their own bodies. Those moments remind me why I do this work.
Q: We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?
A: I'm most proud that we built a model that combines people and technology. We challenged the existing system that claimed tech was the only way. We took those resources, managed to incorporate indigenous practices, and are now leading in this space. We spent over 3,000 hours of in-person conversations to create this model. Radical Health works to engage, equip, and empower folks. We engage through the indigenous practice of community circles that came from our ancestors, to talk about everything from pregnancy to COVID-19. We then took this model and brought it to the digital sphere by equipping and empowering people through the Radical Health app. Through the app, you can chat with a real person who's going to tell you what you need to know, and how to navigate the healthcare system. We're proud of being able to continue to do this work online, across the country, in the middle of a pandemic.
Q: What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?
A: My success has its roots in the cumulative efforts of those who came before me and those who work beside me. I would not be here without my ancestors, along with the Black women, activists, and organizers who have done the heavy lifting so that I could have this platform. And I'm continually supported by those I have met on my journey—including the folks at groups like Dreamers & Doers and the Roddenberry Foundation. The success of Radical Health is a direct result of these collective efforts to uplift our community.
Q: What have you learned about building a team and a support network around yourself?
A: Building a team is challenging, and when working in the field of health equity it's important to live what you practice and to work with those that share your vision. Doing this work is impossible without a team because we don't exist without community. And when running a public benefit corporation, it takes a village to make meaningful change. It's impossible to do this on your own. You're only as strong as the crew you build around you.
Q: What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?
A: I would tell my younger self that every injustice you've seen, everything you've witnessed that makes you want to rage, those are all the pieces that fuel the future of your work. So when you're frustrated and angry at the system that doesn't see you, use those moments to fuel the change that needs to be done.
I'd also tell my younger self, "Don't do it alone, your strength is in sharing your vulnerable moments with your community." My mom was diagnosed with and died from cancer. For a long time, I didn't want to share this part of my journey because I thought it made me weak. But instead, I found that every time I talked about my mom's care with cancer or my emergency C-section or trying to find my first OB-GYN, people would nod their heads. Those experiences resonated with them. Vulnerability is the superpower that brings people together. And in sharing the scarier or more embarrassing parts of my life, I've been able to encourage other people to open up as well.
Q: What’s next for you and your company?
A: This is a big moment for health equity and tech. We're continuing to build our team, have two national partnerships coming up, and will be rolling out a new version of our platform soon. We've all experienced the impact of health being central to the conversation this past year, so we're going to keep building and growing. Radical Health is leading in tech, equity, and inclusive healthcare. If you want to be part of this journey, join or host a community circle, or try out our app, check us out here.
Ivelyse is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.