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As a medical student, Anna Jacobs often encounters LGBTQ+ patients who aren’t getting their health-care needs met. Many are afraid to share information with their providers. Others have providers who don’t know how to fully care for them and aren’t asking the right questions.

At NYU Langone—Long Island, as part of her medical school training, Jacobs takes patients’ medical histories before the provider enters the exam room. She knew there was an issue with the current system when a patient who identified as LGBTQ+ asked her not to share their sexual history details with the physician—they were nervous about the physician’s reaction.

“I thought, this is a really broken system where people are afraid to tell their physician things that are relevant for their health,” says Jacobs, who’s on track to graduate from Booth’s Full Time MBA Program next year and the NYU Long Island School of Medicine in 2024.

She started business school with the intent to improve the health-care system. At the 2021 University of Chicago startup event Collaboratorium, she heard Monika Lach, SM ’21, present her idea for a venture that would make health care better and more accessible for the LGBTQ+ population. Jacobs was so inspired that she joined forces with Lach to cofound Inclusive+. Since then, they’ve gathered a group of LGBTQ+ physicians and pharmacists to elevate care.

The startup is developing a platform that will connect LGBTQ+ individuals with vetted health-care providers who have gone through Inclusive+’s proprietary training. Offered as a benefit to employees, LGBTQ+ patients will no longer need to rely on social media to find a provider or spend countless hours calling providers only to find out they aren’t even accepting new patients. Inclusive+ is a better way to find trusted, capable providers who’ve been vetted and are available for appointments, the cofounders say.

“Anna and I were fed up that the health-care needs of the LGBTQ+ community weren’t being met, and we wanted a way to make it better.”

— Monika Lach

Accelerating Their Startup

This year, the startup was accepted into the Polsky Accelerator, a 10-week summer program to help Booth and UChicago students and alumni grow their ventures.

“Anna and I were fed up that the health-care needs of the LGBTQ+ community weren’t being met, and we wanted a way to make it better,” says Lach, who’s a former manager over specialty pharmacy and biotech infusion at University of Chicago Medicine. “We have a vision of what we want to accomplish. The accelerator has helped us narrow our focus.”

The Polsky Accelerator started in 2012 to give student teams the opportunity to work intensively and exclusively on their businesses in a collaborative environment. Last year, it launched two new tracks to better meet the needs of teams at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys. The BUILD Accelerator is designed for early-stage ventures to work on product development as well as customer and market validation. The LAUNCH Accelerator, which Jacobs and Lach participated in, allows investment-ready teams to focus on fundraising and building momentum.

“The program is industry agnostic and unstructured, giving the students time, money, and space to achieve the outcomes applicable to their venture,” says Lucas Peralta, director of entrepreneurship programs and data strategy at the Polsky Center. He also oversees the Accelerator program and introduced the separate BUILD and LAUNCH tracks.

Peralta says Inclusive+ was chosen to participate for the clear problem it set out to solve and the immense impact they can create. “In the earliest stages of a venture, you invest in people,” Peralta says. “They have instilled confidence in us that they are the team who can accomplish these outcomes. We couldn’t be more excited to call ourselves investors and to see the impact they will make in the world.”

Over the summer, Jacobs and Lach evolved their business idea and model with the help of coaching from Polsky Center staff, mentorship from alumni entrepreneurs and Chicago-area investors, and weekly programming on how to build a startup. These sessions covered everything from financial modeling to issues faced by early startups. “We’re getting a really well-rounded education,” Jacobs says.

They’ve also enjoyed the connections they made through the program. Each Friday participants convened to discuss challenges and solutions. They were also paired with a different participant in the program each week to have one-on-one chats. “It’s been a very collaborative and supportive environment,” Lach says.

Bringing Trust Back to the System

Lach sees their platform as not only helpful for the LGBTQ+ community, but also beneficial for employers looking to attract diverse employees by providing better and more accessible health-care options. After an employer signs up for the platform, its employees can access a list of providers vetted by the Inclusive+ team.

“A lot of providers say they’re LGBTQ+ friendly, but they’re not necessarily asking the right questions, which may lead to poorer health outcomes,” Lach says of the rigorous Inclusive+ vetting process.

Lach, a pharmacist, wanted to start the company after witnessing insurance companies deny hormone therapy for transwomen. She felt the current system for LGBTQ+ health care was frustratingly impossible. “Patients experience barriers every step of the way,” she says, “whether it’s pharmacy- or medicine-related.”

Jacobs and Lach are still fine-tuning the details of their startup’s services. For example, they hope to integrate providers’ schedules with the Inclusive+ platform so patients could ultimately schedule appointments through it. The cofounders plan to collect medical history from clients in a thorough, compassionate, and thoughtful way to share it with physicians prior to the patient’s appointment. They’re also working with nonprofit organizations and LGBTQ+ physicians to create best practices for LGBTQ+ patient care and address gaps, with new resources. The accelerator has helped with all of these goals.

As a result of their dedication and hard work, Jacobs and Lach received a grant from the National Science Foundation to help Inclusive+ better understand its customers.

They are thrilled by their early success and are excited to see their startup come to life to help elevate the quality of care delivered and, ultimately, improve lives. Lach adds, “We’re hoping to bring trust back into the system for LGBTQ+ patients.”


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