William Newton ’20

Fitscript LLC, New Haven, CT

This summer, I interned at Fitscript LLC, a New Haven start-up that provides people with diabetes and pre-diabetes a clinically-integrated digital health program to manage and control diabetes with exercise. While it is widely accepted that exercise is an effective strategy for managing diabetes, almost all existing diabetes management apps and digital health solutions focus on diabetes medication and nutrition. Using its patented program GlucoseZone, Fitscript uses patient’s glucose levels and other biometric factors to provide them with customized, real-time exercise guidance—a crucial but often-overlooked component of diabetes care. The company hopes to prove that exercise is not just a supplement to medicine, but rather can act as a diabetes treatment on its own when implemented correctly.

Because the start-up had roughly 20 employees, I was almost immediately given the opportunity to meaningfully contribute. During the first several days, my orientation consisted of attending many of the meetings and conferences the company had scheduled. While a Non-Disclosure Agreement prevents me from going into too many details of these meetings, I can say that this sort of “orientation on-the-go” very quickly gave me an idea of how the company works. I attended a marketing meeting on publicizing Fitscript’s recently-formed partnership with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a conference call about integrating a customer relationship management software, and a discussion about whether to follow up with a company that solicited a relationship with Fitscript but had somewhat unclear motives for doing so.

After my introduction to the company, the COO and I discussed my long-term project: researching and developing a plan, using my background as an economics and Spanish major, to adapt and promote GlucoseZone to Hispanic audiences. Before I could fully dive into this project, however, there were a number of short-term projects with quick deadlines that needed to get done. First, I used my knowledge of WordPress from my journalism background to retroactively tag GlucoseZone blog posts and update their style for consistency. Previously, some blog posts about type 1 diabetes were tagged “#Type 1 Diabetes,” others were tagged “#diabetestype1,” and others weren’t tagged at all. After creating a guide for tagging the posts and updating their formatting, it made it easier to sort previous posts and ensured future posts would fall under a consistent style.

Next, the developers were in the process of preparing a significant update to the GlucoseZone mobile app and were in need of someone outside of the development team to help with Alpha testing. After the lead developer gave me a thorough breakdown of how Alpha testing works and provided me with a testing protocol, I was tasked with “trying to break the app” on a number of Android and Apple devices running the new version of the app. While the testing itself was somewhat mundane, it was really valuable to see app development from the inside and learn about testing procedures from an accomplished developer.

During the first several weeks of the internship, when I wasn’t editing or updating website posts, testing the app, or working on another task that came up, I began my preliminary research into the cultural and linguistic differences in Hispanic audiences relevant to public health. After my supervisor got back from an ADA conference in Orlando, I had to put these projects on temporary hold to work on a newly-developed one: finding, sorting, and summarizing a list of the most relevant articles on diabetes, medication, and exercise to distribute to potential healthcare providers that could prescribe GlucoseZone. During the research process, the other summer intern working on the project and I started by meeting with the public health research librarian at Yale to learn how to effectively search and sort articles from medical databases, and we then applied these skills as we researched. When it was time to present our findings, we had extensive research on the positive impact of exercise on diabetes, but very little information on the impact of exercise versus medication on diabetes. Going into the meeting, we were worried this would be a setback, but our boss used Sherlock’s “curious incident of the dog in the night-time” as a metaphor for why that was not the case. In this episode, he explained, there was no barking guard dog to alert of an intrusion the night a horse was stolen. The fact that the dog did not bark, Sherlock concluded, was the most valuable piece of evidence because that meant that the intruder was a regular visitor of the home that the guard dog recognized. In our case, the lack of studies comparing exercise and medicine as treatment options was our dog that did not bark; this was the most significant finding because it meant that there was a void in research that Fitscript could attempt to fill with a study of its own involving a partnering research institution. It was insights and lessons like this, coming from both our supervisor, who was now part of his fourth or fifth start-up, and others in the company that had been around business for a long time, which really made this internship such a valuable learning experience.

By the end of the internship, I had researched and prepared a memo with my long-term project, short- and long-term recommendations for creating and promoting a Spanish version of GlucoseZone, and presented it to Fitscript senior leadership. In developing this report, I applied many of the same research and analysis techniques I had learned in school in a real-world, business setting. Based on the recommendations from my report, I then created the first Spanish-language GlucoseZone content by translating the titles, descriptions, and closed captioning for several of GlucoseZone’s most prominent videos.

Overall, the internship was an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only did I learn a lot about research and business from members of the company, but I also felt like I made a real, tangible impact on the company, particularly by creating and initiating a plan for marketing GlucoseZone to the Hispanic market. As a result of this experience, I now know how exciting it is to work with a small group of highly-motivated individuals in an incredibly challenging situation, and I will definitely prioritize finding a similar type of work environment as I begin searching for future internships and jobs. In the classroom, I’ll be able to apply everything from specific lessons, like how to effectively search through a database, to much broader ones, like always being aware of the dog that doesn’t bark, to all of my future projects and work.

I am incredibly grateful to the members of Fitscript who taught me so much and trusted me to work on important projects from the onset, despite my age and my limited time at the company, and I’m especially grateful to the Williams College Alumni Sponsored Internship Program and Mr. William F. McCalpin ’79 for providing me with the funding to make this internship possible.