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Nashville Entrepreneur Center Launches the Vanderbilt Startups Practicum and 2024 Project Healthcare

Feb 1, 2024
Vanderbilt Business faculty lead the inaugural Vanderbilt Startups Practicum focused on helping healthcare startups succeed

By Lacie Blankenship

In early January, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC) hosted an evening dedicated to healthcare innovations with the launch of the Vanderbilt Startups Practicum, and a first look at the 2024 Project Healthcare cohort.

Pictured: Vanderbilt Business Dean Steenburgh speaks on the value of experimental learning to the audience. Steenburgh is sitting at the front of the room in front of a slide deck presentation and is holding a microphone.

Dean Steenburgh (right) is pictured with Lauren Hatcher (left). Steenburgh was among the invited speakers at the event.

The event consisted of social networking opportunities, pitches from startup founders, and a glimpse into the collaborative programs offered in partnership through the NEC and Vanderbilt. Tom Steenburgh, Ralph Owen Dean, Vanderbilt Business, was among the invited speakers at the kickoff event, notably discussing the thriving entrepreneurship scene in Nashville. 


What is the NEC? 

The NEC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to nurturing Nashville’s entrepreneurial spirit and ecosystem. Founded by business leaders, the NEC aims to support the next generation of entrepreneurs by serving as a hub for visionaries and offering vital resources to drive impact near and far. 


What is the Vanderbilt Startups Practicum?

The Vanderbilt Startups Practicum is a new project-based course. It is a collaborative effort of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, the Department of Health Policy at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, and Project Healthcare through the NEC. 

Teams of students from various schools across campus will work closely with founders under faculty guidance and with assistance from experts in the local healthcare community. They will analyze, evaluate, and propose enhancements to the founders’ ideas for new health care products/services. Led by Ranga Ramanujam, Richard M. and Betty Ruth Miller Chair, Professor of Management and Faculty Director of Health Care Programs at Vanderbilt Business, and Professor of Health Policy, and John Graves, Vanderbilt Professor of Health Policy, Medicine, and Management, the 2024 student teams will study 4 companies that were chosen to participate in this year’s practicum.

The Vanderbilt Startups Practicum is an interdisciplinary affair,” says Ramanujam. “It aims to align our students’ desire for experiential learning in the health sector with founders’ desire for independent assessments and advice.” 

In the fall, the Vanderbilt Business Healthcare Association (VBHA)  and the Owen Venture and Entrepreneurship Club (OVEC) hosted an event with the NEC where Ramanujam and Graves discussed their plans for the program and invited potential partner startups to deliver a pitch to attendees. 

Lauren Hatcher (MD/MBA’24) and Hannah Peterson, a Health Policy Data Analyst at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, were also actively involved in course planning and execution.    

Pictured: John Graves (left) and Ranga Ramanujam (right) are speaking to the audience. Ramanujam is holding the microphone.

John Graves (left) and Ranga Ramanujam (right)

“There are incredible companies being launched out of the NEC, and it is a great place for students to apply their learning by engaging with industry,” says Hatcher, who works at the NEC in addition to being a Vanderbilt MBA dual degree student.“There is also so much energy and community at the EC, and it’s really fun to be a part of it. It’s been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had while a student at Vanderbilt Business, and I know this formal partnership will allow other students to benefit, too.”

Who are the 2024 Practicum Companies? 

Nashville Collaborative Counseling Center

The Nashville Collaborative Counseling Center improves access to quality mental health services in Tennessee by offering tailored individual therapy.  

Sage Surfer

Sage Surfer is an omnichannel behavioral care coordination platform designed to smoothly manage everything from crisis care for individuals with complex needs to the engagement of large, diverse populations with mild to severe mental illnesses. 

Care Sherpa 

Care Sherpa guides healthcare providers to increased volumes and predictive revenue growth by managing the patient lead pipeline. By focusing on new patient acquisition, capturing critical data, and providing personalized ongoing support, Care Sherpa builds superior patient relationships. 

PopCheck Technologies 

Pictured: In a photo taken from above, event guests graze an impressive charcuterie board.

In addition to speaker sessions and venture pitches, the event provided opportunities for event attendees to socialize.

PopCheck Technologies, short for Postoperative Check, creates AI-enabled remote patient monitoring wearables with a connected digital platform that non-invasively predicts the development of surgical complications such as venous clots in high-risk populations. 

How can I get involved? 

The Vanderbilt Startups Practicum is enabled by the support of an entire ecosystem of experts, innovators, and investors. 

The practicum course (MGT 6505) is geared toward Vanderbilt Health Policy students and MBA students, but graduate students across Vanderbilt can register for it. The 2024 program runs through June. 

“From the faculty involved to the industry experts, students, and startups, the Vanderbilt Startups Practicum is a win-win for everyone involved,” says Graves. 

What is Project Healthcare? 

Project Healthcare, led by Chairman Eric Thrailkill, is a 6-month NEC program that drives transformation in the healthcare industry. The program is optimized for high-growth healthcare tech startups through a tailored hands-on curriculum where participants leverage Nashville’s healthcare giants for industry experts and resources. 



Who is in the 2024 Project Healthcare cohort?

The 2024 Project Healthcare cohort employs over 160 full-time employees, and total lifetime equity raised amounts to $38.5M in the aggregate. The roster includes 17 companies that span healthcare education solutions, supply chain management, empowering home health efforts, maternal health equity tools, and more. The companies are listed and linked below. 

Pictured: The Nashville Entrepreneur Center logo. The logo is a pattern of colorful circles in a double-layered circle. Amenities




Elucid Health



JordanRiver Living



MindWise Health 

MultiplAI Health

Sonic Blocks





How can I get involved? 

Like the Vanderbilt Startups Practicum, Project Healthcare thrives because of the support of advisors, investors, sponsors, and partners.

Pictured: Eric Thrailkill (left) and Haley Combs (right) show the event attendees a Project Healthcare t-shirt. The shirt is white with blue ink.

Eric Thrailkill (left) and Haley Combs, Program Manager, NEC (right)

“Without a doubt, entrepreneurs will help shape the future of healthcare, and we are fortunate to have the sharpest minds in healthcare here in Nashville,” says Thrailkill. “It is paramount we embrace new thinking and innovative ideas to continue to move the industry forward.”

Contact the Project Healthcare Team and learn more about joining the ecosystem of industry innovators, from entrepreneurs to corporate leaders, investors, government, media, and educators. 

The public can stream the Friends of Project Healthcare podcast available on Apple and Spotify, which is produced by the NEC. The podcast features industry experts as guests and gives the inside scoop on the Nashville healthcare scene. 

On February 29, 2024, the NEC will host the next Project Healthcare event featuring Blake Madden of Hospitalogy, Nikhil Krishnan of Out-of-Pocket, and Paul Keckley of The Keckley Report. More information on the event will be available on Eventbrite soon.

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