David Newell, WG’21, came to Wharton’s EMBA program to learn how to “think bigger and make a larger impact.” At the time, he was thinking about how an MBA would help him transition into senior leadership and to run a company. However, Wharton gave him the confidence and the network to make a bigger impact immediately by helping to solve the national challenge of finding a COVID-19 vaccine.
In December 2020, his parents became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in his home state of Texas. However, like many other people their age, they were having trouble actually booking appointments. “I could see on the state website where the vaccines were offered, but you had to visit each pharmacy’s individual website to check availability and make an appointment. That meant searching 80+ websites multiple times a day, which was time-consuming and frustrating. For someone less comfortable with technology, it was even more troubling,” he said.
With a background in technology and engineering, David spent the first week of January building a website called Findashot.org to automatically search for available appointments and direct people to openings. “The site is not very complicated. I made it easier to search for appointments by state, zip code, or a ‘find near me’ option,” explained David. The site costs the equivalent of a few cups of coffee a month to run, and so far he has raised enough via Ko-fi to support the site for 2021.
His parents successfully found and booked appointments, and he realized that the methodology would be the same nationwide as it is for Texas. “This type of site is unique, as others are either focused on a particular city or state or on one or two specific pharmacy brands,” said David.
Expanding the site necessitated reaching out to more pharmacies to obtain cooperation and ensure they would not block access to their booking websites. He turned to the Wharton network for help. An alumna at CVS Health connected him with the director at CVS leading the development of the pharmacy scheduling app. And a classmate who works at Walmart connected David with the director of that brand’s scheduling app.
“Thanks to the Wharton network, the cooperation from these pharmacies has been awesome,” said David. “They are on board with this meaningful cause to get more people vaccinated. Supply is constrained compared to demand, and we do not want someone who is eligible for a vaccine to give up just because the first 10 pharmacies they check do not have appointments. That slows down the vaccine rollout. My website helps you search across all participating providers with real-time updates and it is free. Findashot.org now covers 47 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.”
The biggest challenge for the website, noted David, is awareness. “I want to spread the word about the website and also add more vaccine providers to the site. It feels great to get emails from people who spent days unsuccessfully searching for a vaccine and then used this site to finally book their shots.”
As an Eagle Scout, David has always been passionate and dedicated to serving the community. “This is one relatively small thing I can do to help a massive problem. And when I did face challenges, like trying to add certain pharmacies to my site, my Wharton network was there for me and stepped in to help.”
Click here to read an article about Findashot.org in the Daily Pennsylvanian.
— By Meghan Laska
Posted: March 1, 2021