Meet Gates Millennium Scholar x Entrepreneur: Dr. Cristina Leos, PhD

My Health Ed, Inc (Real Talks)

Dr. Cristina Leos, PhD, a 2009 Gates Millennium Scholar  is a behavioral scientist, entrepreneur, and design thinking expert leveraging technology innovation to improve adolescent health. With degrees from Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she has spent nine years investigating lifestyle, behavioral, and technological interventions to improve health. Her academic research focuses on adolescent development, and identifying structural and interpersonal drivers of health inequities. She also applies her design thinking skills to train and inspire students, researchers, educators, activists, and public health professionals. She now uses her expertise in behavioral science and human-centered design to help youth of every identity reach their fullest potential.

Cristina is Co-Founder & CEO of Real Talk, a mobile app that connects teens with authentic stories and trusted resources on sexual health, mental health, and identity-related topics to help teens know they are not alone in their experiences growing up. Real Talk has been generously recognized by prominent media outlets including Forbes, Fast Company, Smithsonian Magazine, Teen Vogue, and NPR.

GMS: Tell us about your business.

Cristina: MyHealthEd, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to using human-centered design to support the health and well being of youth of every identity. Our flagship product, the Real Talk mobile app, provides teens with authentic stories and trusted resources on sensitive health topics to help them know they are not alone in their experiences growing up.

GMS: What inspired you to create My Health Ed, Inc?

Cristina: Growing up, I saw many of my peers become teen parents by the time we finished high school. I later went on to pursue graduate degrees in public health to better understand why this was happening and what I could do to help other young people. This venture began when I was in graduate school as a student research project to use technology to increase access to sexual health education for youth of color living in low-income and rural areas. We received seed funding from the U.S. Office of Population Affairs and the national nonprofit Power to Decide to develop the app, and at that point my colleagues and I decided to found a nonprofit to operate it.

GMS: Tell us how the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program directly or indirectly had a part in your path to being an entrepreneur.

Cristina: The Gates Millennium Scholarship made it possible for me to attend graduate school and gain important skills related to my current venture. This venture also came to life with help from my two co-founders, whom I met during my time in graduate school.

GMS: What advice would you give other Gates Millennium Scholars who aspire to become an entrepreneur?

Cristina: My advice for other scholars who aspire to become entrepreneurs is to always test your ideas with the audience you intend to serve (make sure it’s actually useful to them!), seek out a team you trust and can depend on (this is invaluable in so many ways), and you will never have all the answers, so get comfortable with ambiguity.

      (Photo Credit: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

To learn more about Dr. Cristina Leos and My Health Ed, Inc please visit her LinkedIn page as well as her business website.

Note: The Real Talk, launched in 2017 and crowd sources advice from teenagers ages 13 to 15 based on their personal experiences to help their peers. The app boasts 16,000 teenage users across all 50 states. The Real Talk App is available on the Apple Store.

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Photo Credit: Head shot from Personal LinkedIn Page