When a student gets sick on campus, mom’s chicken soup is far away and sometimes the pharmacy is just not close enough.
To help provide students with easy access to medication and other personal care items, a team of students created MedKit Solutions, transforming a dorm vending machine into a pharmacy in a box.
Pre-med seniors Matthew Urban and Chris Holland, both neuroscience majors, developed the concept with Feinberg School of Medicine first-year student Ashorne Mahenthiran ’19. The startup provides easy, on-campus access to medication, hygiene items and sexual health products. The group’s first machine, introduced in fall 2019, offers name-brand medicine in Sargent Hall, and plans are underway for both new locations and new items.
At the 2018 ImproveNU Challenge, the team (then called Wildcat Wellness) received third place for its work. The co-founders conducted an online survey of more than 330 students. It revealed that about 40% of students felt sick at least once a week, and more than 80% were deterred by the long walk to Evanston-area pharmacies. As a result nearly 65% of students reportedly did not treat their symptoms due to the inconvenience of traveling for medicine.
The founders say MedKit fulfills a need. While campus locations such as Norris University Center and Lisa’s Cafe offer health and wellness products, only 3% of students said they purchased medicine at the University.
Urban and Holland are part of the Residency Program at Northwestern’s The Garage, a hub for student entrepreneurs, and plan to work on MedKit further during a post-graduation gap year. They intend to eventually hand off their creation and ideas — including expansion to other universities — to a new set of students.
Holland and Urban credit Northwestern’s Residential Services, Canteen vending, and student marketing, entrepreneurship and business groups with helping to guide the project and keep it afloat as it grew from conception to reality.
Urban says the project has helped him bridge the gap between his interests in medicine and entrepreneurship.
“Coming into college as pre-meds, we knew it would be difficult to immerse ourselves in entrepreneurship and business courses despite our interest,” Urban says. “MedKit was our way to take our passions beyond the classroom to the entire Northwestern community, and in doing so we have gained crucial entrepreneurial and medical experience.”