Nihal Satyadev is a social entrepreneur, biomedical researcher, and the leading millennial Alzheimer's advocate.
In 2015, Satyadev served as a public policy intern for Alzheimer’s Association. Recognizing the disease as one of the largest impending healthcare crisis and noticing the lack of youth advocacy, he founded The Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s (YMAA) - 501(c)3. In the last 18 months of his involvement as CEO, YMAA has become the nation's widest-reaching nonprofit in providing opportunities for college and high school students to advocacy, research, and provide care for those battling with the disease. YMAA has expanded to 20 high schools and colleges, provided over 2000 hours of caregiver respite, and raised $15,000 for research scholarships. Satyadev has recently been awarded as an Under 40 Senior Living Leader for his work with YMAA.
In addition to his work with this nonprofit, Satyadev has been an avid researcher of neurodegenerative diseases. He is currently working on assessing a correlation between Alzheimer’s Disease and Periodontal Disease. He is a rising senior pursuing a Computer Science degree at the University of Redlands, where he is a member of two honors societies - Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board.
How did you get to where you are today?
My journey to where I am today started with a desire to build an organization that would bring together young people who are being affected by Alzheimer's and young people who wanted to make a difference in the area of healthcare. Since our founding 2 years ago, our organization has grown to 20+ schools and is actively reaching 500 students. We have provided over 2,000 hours of respite care for Alzheimer's caregivers, and are continuing to build our mission by launching a social enterprise next year.
Our nonprofit started as an advocacy group to bring together high school and college students to raise awareness for America’s most expensive disease. We soon after launched a research scholarship program at two of our chapters, UCLA and Northwestern. At our founding chapter UCLA, we partnered with UCLA Geriatrics and received a six-figure grant to start TimeOut@UCLA - the first of it’s kind intergenerational program that trains students to provide care for dementia patients. In 2016, our model was awarded as a National Program of Distinction by Generations United. This past year we have been working with the UCLA Social Enterprise Academy to develop a business plan to scale our efforts and recently won 1st place at their pitch competition.
A lot of my success with this project thus far has been because of my mentors and my team. There have been a few calls with some of my mentors that have completely changed my trajectory and vision for the organization. In addition, I believe some of our organization's greatest work has been because of team members bringing in fresh idea and executing them in a short amount of time.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
One of the toughest obstacles for me is explaining to young people why they should care about a disease that affects people generally over 65. I overcome it by making sure that I allow myself the appropriate environment to explain the issue to them in full. The ramifications of Alzheimer's are a lot more severe and complicated compared to the macro implications of a disease like cancer or HIV. Alzheimer’s not only has an immediate impact on families through multiple generations, but it also will have monumental economic ramifications on both our healthcare system and the overall economy within the next decade which have not been foreseen in modern history.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
Staying focused and motivated I think is something that has always been part of who I am. While it comes natural to me, I work everyday on improving how I maximize my time. Motivation is easier when you are driven by a clear mission and for me, that's social impact. Having seen the way this disease has impacted my family and several other families and the enormous financial burden it has put on these individuals, I wake up everyday knowing my struggles are miniscule in comparison to what these families go through on a day-to-day basis.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When working on a startup, there is advice thrown at your everday, but one piece of advice I always go back to is what my dad has said, “Never assume anything.” I think that advice lends itself to numerous arenas including communication with my team and external organization as well as knowing that nothing in the world is going to be done for me, I have to go get it.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
My advice would be to just start on something. I think too often people are stuck in an analysis-paralysis phase, where they are constantly mulling on their idea and seeing if they thought about the ins and outs in perfectly. In my opinion the winners are those who DO, not those who think. If you have an idea, go do it, and in the process of doing it you will learn a lot more about how to make your idea successful. If you need to have someone look over your idea and validate its purpose in an area which you have not previously ventured into, take the time to seek mentors. Send out hundreds of cold emails everyday, send out hundreds of cold LinkedIn invites every day, until you find the one or two people who will be there for you and make sure that you are growing and learning along the way.
How do we get more women leaders?
The timing of this interview is really interesting as I recently read the New York Times piece on the harassment that women continue to face in Silicon Valley. I think it is crucial that men not only are making space for a woman leaders who are well in their right of earning their leadership, but that we are also actively creating pathways and systems for them to succeed. Throughout my leadership, our team has always been over 50% of women on our executive team, and I think that has lent us to have a diverse thought process and set of opinions.
What does success mean to you?
Success is being able to wake up every day excited to do what you do and being able to end the day feeling proud of what you've done.
What are your secrets to productivity?
Organizational tools are everything. Whether it's your checklist, your Slack, your Asana, or your Google Calendar, find the tools which work best for you and utilize them for every single day.
If you had a life motto, what would it be?
One of my favorite quotes is “Everyone has two lives and the second one begins when you realize you only have one.” I think it's so important to recognize that we only have one life and although we may think that our lifespan is 75-100 years, each day of those several years only comes to us once.
Who is your most inspirational female role model & why?
Rachel Sumekh - and it's an honor to not only have her as a role model but also to be able to be learning from her as her mentee. Rachel has proven the power of social entrepreneurship and has shown how quickly a student-led team can spread an endeavour to several campuses. I think the work that she has done with Swipe Out Hunger is an inspiration for many students who are looking to redefine entrepreneurship and approach startups with a double bottom line. She is someone who walks the walk and put in the hours every day to see through her vision of hunger-free schools around the country.