November 16, 2016
Trek Medics International, a Columbia Startup Lab resident venture, was pleased to announce that they won a $25,000 grant from the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures, part of Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. The Fund provides seed grants to Columbia-affiliated nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid early-stage social ventures that can demonstrate both clear impact and a financially self-sustaining business model. The unrestricted grant funding is given as a one-time gift and is purposed to help further develop the venture and its impact.
“We we were absolutely thrilled to receive word of the grant prize,” said Jason Friesen (MSPH ’12), Trek Medics’ founder. “Not only was it a much needed infusion of cash support to help us keep things moving forward, it also felt like a real validation of our mission and organization. The Tamer Fund has a clear commitment to social ventures from all backgrounds and we’re very honored the Investment Board chose to demonstrate that commitment by supporting us as their first non-profit grantee.”
Trek Medics International was founded in 2009 by Jason Friesen ’12MSPH, a paramedic who had been working on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border. Originally started as a weekend hobby, the initial aim was to donate equipment and training to under-funded emergency medical systems in communities with limited resources in Latin America.
Shortly after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, Jason was deployed with a medical response team to assist in relief efforts in Port-au-Prince and the experiences he had there made it pretty clear that high-tech emergency equipment and luxury ambulances had little to offer to communities with regular blackouts and no roads.
Today, Trek Medics International is dedicated to developing sustainable and equitable emergency medical systems in communities with limited resources. Leticia Froix ’16MSPH, Dr. Kevin Munjal ’12MSPH have joined the team. We have two active programs in the Dominican Republic and Tanzania working with local communities to build and manage community-based response systems that are now providing 24-7 coverage to nearly 200,000 people, and growing.
Our approach is to leverage available resources to strengthen existing systems, whether formal or informal, and we do this primarily through our mobile phone-based emergency medical dispatching software, Beacon, which we’ve designed specifically for communities that can’t afford or don’t need advanced “911” technologies.
Trek Medics’ team is comprised of over ten staff: Leticia Froix (MSPH ’16) heads our operations from the NYC office, where our Medical Director, Dr. Kevin Munjal (MSPH ’12) is an attending emergency physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital and a pioneer in community paramedicine in the U.S. Our two field programs are led by ten full-time local staff, and our lead engineer, Dr. William Prescott, resides in Guadalajara, Mexico, with additional engineering support from Vision Point Systems (Blacksburg, VA).
Our goal over the next year is to continue expanding existing programs among local partners, while also adding two new locations that will be providing “9-1-1” emergency coverage to a combined 1 million people by June 2017. While we’re definitely going to need a lot of support to do it, the good news is we have a program every and any community can buy into: an emergency response system built with local young adults using the vehicles on the road and the phones in their pockets, and giving them a chance to see first-hand how they can make a difference — how they can truly save lives. If there was ever an organization built with blood, sweat and tears, the work we’re accomplishing with these communities should leave no doubt it’s ours. Join the movement today and visit us at: www.trekmedics.org/beacon/