ARPA-H makes talking with communities a principle of program development


When ARPA-H held a proposers’ day for the Precision Surgical Interventions program in Chicago in September 2023, potential proposers pitched their ideas to make the goals of the ARPA-H Precision Surgical Interventions program a reality. But the visit to Chicago encompassed a much larger group.

Around the country, ARPA-H staff have been engaged in learning more about local health ecosystems, talking with patients and medical staff; with businesses, university, and local health innovation representatives; and with intergovernmental representatives to share robust conversations about how to accelerate better health for everyone.

“These community conversations are how a program starts,” said PSI Program Manager Dr. Ileana Hancu. “We are there to listen and to understand what the community’s unmet needs are. We do not live in an ivory tower, and it’s not like we dream up an idea and then we make it happen. We are absolutely immersed in the community and trying to understand what their pain points are.”

At an event assembling surgeons, industry leaders, patient groups, and others to discuss PSI and its goals, HHS Regional Director Michael Cabonargi, who leads HHS activities in the greater Chicago area, introduced the morning’s agenda. “ARPA-H is looking for big and bold ideas,” he said. “We’re looking for revolutionary, not evolutionary impact to transform biomedicine and improve health outcomes, and we’re excited to talk with you, and to partner with all of you make that happen.”

Dr. Amy Jenkins, director of the ARPA-H Health Science Futures Office, viewed these discussions, lab tours, and other events as crucial to setting up ARPA-H programs for success.

“We want to make sure that the tools ARPA-H develops can be used, that all our customers – patients, providers, and beyond – are interested in those technologies,” Jenkins said. “These ecosystem trips enable us to meet these customers where they live and talk to them. They can explain to us what their problems are. By getting out and talking to the people that are on the ground, we can better understand what they deal with day to day, so we can then bring our program managers and try to solve those problems.”

These visits are only one of the ways ARPA-H aims to ensure successes that result from programs are needed, wanted, and ready to move through the transition process, scaling up and out to reach the people that need them in the way they need them. Learn more about how we’re getting our programs ready for the real world via the ARPA-H transition office.