Meeting Dr. John Fitzpatrick was not planned. He was a guest speaker at a research fellowship weekly meeting speaking about how to brand your research. Although branding research was definitely an important advantage while in the midst of my own research, I found Fitzpatrick’s personal story much more intriguing. He briefly explained his Phd in neuroscience (impressive), then alluded to his app, ShugaTrak, development before continuing on with the speech.
With a lack of excitement I have for mandatory weekly meetings I did some further research on our speaker. After Fitzpatrick’s lecture I took the shred of knowledge from the lecture I desperately should have listened to, and went to give Fitzpatrick my what he would call an “elevator” speech. I rambled about starting a magazine to help young professionals and I guess I did a good enough job to gain an interview with him.
We met at The Grove, what I thought was the coolest place in America (probably because they had a resident dog). The Grove is a collaborative workspace for non-profits and start up companies. Allowing people to work on their own company as well as collaborate with other startups in the work place. All of the companies within the Grove have consulted with the others or supplied them with contacts to better their brand.
Fitzpatrick’s story starts where almost all of our stories begin, being a confused undergrad. For him it was an unfulfilling psychology undergraduate degree. Not wanting to pursue psychology further, Fitzpatrick decided to get a Masters in biomedical engineering, not a typical decision for psych students, but he made it work at University of Southern California. After his masters he decided to go for a doctorate in neuroscience. For those of you not familiar, neuroscience often leads to a life of solitary research, which was not the ideal situation for John who is delighted by collaboration.
He moved to New Haven, Connecticut to work at Yale University school of medicine for a post doc in the department of neuropathology. After his work at the school of medicine he left the lab in 2007 to work again withYale connecting faculty with the IT management was right for him as he explained, “Connecting people, thats all I want to do, I like working with people to accomplish their goals together.” So he went on to advising faculty on the programs they will need to see out their projects and found fulfillment in the collaboration efforts of this kind of work. However, he got laid off from ITS in June 2009 and he moved Yale faculties to the office of development, where he connected Yale donors and learned about what they are doing with their Yale degree. Fitzpatrick became especially interested in the contributors who started their own companies, sparking some Ideas of his own, “I became inspired by the hardworking individuals starting something new”
Wanting use of his masters in biomedical engineering and develop something that would help the medical community. Fitzpatrick entered a start up weekend at The Grove in 2011 where innovators come together to pitch ideas and connect with people who can help develop your company. Fitzpatrick pitched his idea for an app allowing parents of diabetic children to receive text alerts when their children were taking blood glucose levels, thus allowing appropriate measures to be taken if glucose goes too low. He won that contest and was awarded cash, legal services, and an office space. He then applied and was accepted into a accelerator program run by Connecticut Innovators.
So let me brief our non-diabetic readers out there on how what happens when you are diabetic. Daily a Type 1 diabetic will check their glucose 4-8 times a day. Where as a Type 2 diabetic may check their glucose 2 or more times daily. This also changing if medication changes or if the patient is ill. Checking glucose is essential to patients health, it plays key roles in changing and prescribing medication as well as have diet and exercise effects the patient. All of these factors go into maintaining a patient's diabetes. Now to check diabetes there is a glucose reading devices that spring activates a needle to prick the finger of the patient then a strip reads the amount of glucose. The monitor allows the patient to read the number then stores in in the database which you can not access unless you plug it into your computer and make an excel spreadsheet out of this. I don’t know about you but I can not remember the last time I made an excel spreadsheet, which can be problematic for doctors to react to the patient's needs.
ShugaTrak is revolutionary. The two versions of the app both are equally outstanding. The initial version of the ShugaTrak required a glucose meter adaptor developed by Fitzpatrick’s team. Users would take their glucose reading then press a button backing up data to the cloud, sending messages and alerts to the user and the parents of the user. This would give parents the knowledge if their child reached dangerously low glucose reading. ShugaTrak also helps physicians have a backup of patients information and be able to properly monitor levels. However an amazing feature for families, the app is not what everyone is looking for.
Fitzpatrick consulted a doctor in regards to the app to who sees many diabetic patients to try and update ShugaTrak, where he learned that patients would much rather not push a button to backup their data. “I know this sounds weird, but the best way to reach a wider range of people is to remove the button,” Fitzpatrick explained. Version two took the button off the table having more of the general population in mind. This version is still using a glucose meter adaptor developed by Fitzpatrick’s team. This version requires no button, just immediate cloud backup. The numbers can be tracked on the app and backed up. Both versions use a device attached to the regular glucose reader which allows diabetic people to continue to use familiar devices good for maintaining accurate reading.
While you may not have diabetes, you may know of a family member or friend who can tell you how annoying it is to keep track of their glucose readings. Some will tell you that they have never compiled their information (cue screams of family practitioners). The health field needs Fitzpatrick and more like him to work on making maintaining health easy.