Berkeley alumnus pioneers Native health-care solution
WOODLAND PARK, N.J.
Entrepreneur Mark Atlan, of Manhattan, New York, is in the process of launching ZappCare, his passion project that aims to bridge the medical divide for Native American communities.
A Chiricahua Apache raised in Gallup, Atlan’s journey first brought him to Los Angeles, where he attended a community college, before moving to New York City in 2013 to pursue a bachelor’s in business administration at Berkeley College.
The 30-year-old looks back on his time as a student at the Midtown Manhattan campus with fondness.
“I’m a culture seeker and I knew right away I wanted to be in the heart of New York City,” said Atlan. “I wanted to go to Wall Street and compete with the best … Berkeley College put me in proximity to exactly where I wanted to be.”
Atlan has worked on Wall Street since earning his degree in 2015. As a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, he manages stock and bond portfolios for ultra-high-net-worth individuals, endowments and foundations.
While his career in finance brought him a lot of joy over the years, Atlan was motivated to pioneer a solution to improve the way his community accesses health care after witnessing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the United States’ indigenous population.
An innovative approach
ZappCare is set to officially launch this month. The company, which was recently featured by NPR, is designed to use technology to fill medical and infrastructure gaps on reservations.
Telehealth, drone prescription delivery, and mobile units can provide routine services and minor surgical procedures.
“Living in New York City the last eight years put it into perspective,” Atlan said. “I can walk out my door and get anything I want 24 hours a day but where I grew up, it’s normal to not have medical attention within an hour or two hours.”
He said serious infrastructural shortcomings can make routine care impossible on the Navajo Reservation.
The challenges exposed by the pandemic include lack of access to running water for frequent hand washing that can prevent infection.
Navajos are also at extremely high risk for medical conditions that can be avoided with preventative care or are otherwise easily treatable elsewhere across the country, like diabetes and cataracts.
“We need to come with an energy of New York and Los Angeles in technology and bring it to the Navajo Nation,” said Atlan.
He envisions ZappCare launching first on his home reservation, before expanding to other neighboring Native communities and eventually serving others across the country and globally.
ZappCare will launch a Beta TeleHealth App to a select number of 1,500 Diné citizens and a full version of Telehealth will launch in January 2022.
The company is seeking partnerships with chapters for the TeleHealth booth and plans to launch mobile medical services in May 2022.
Drone testing on the Navajo Nation begins in January 2022 in accordance with the Navajo Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.
ZappCare is a Navajo and Native preference company and has priority status with the Navajo Business Regulatory Department.
A badge of honor
Atlan wears his identity like a badge of honor.
“Being able to celebrate my culture is special to me,” he said. “Being Native American really gives me kind of a cape, like a suit of armor, maybe a superhero mentality.”
He grew up Gallup in the Mentmore and Indian Hills neighborhoods. He is a 2009 graduate of Gallup High School.
Altan plans to transition his focus to ZappCare full-time in the future, as well as continuing to teach financial literacy on reservations, something he has done as a volunteer for the last five years.
“My passion and my heart are with my Native American people,” said Atlan. “I really want to encourage people to understand themselves, be confident in themselves, and be confident enough to pursue their passion. If you follow your passion, the money will come.”