Interview with Suzanne Mitchell, Founder of See Yourself Health
Tell Us About Your Journey
My entrepreneur journey started as a physician, practicing mostly in underserved areas. And in doing that, really becoming curious about some of the public health problems that I was seeing in my patient population.
I started to learn more about health disparities, and that kind of took me on a public health research kind of path. I started to study problems about the way we deliver health care to those who really need it most, and have the kind of hardest time reaching it. And that led me to exploring technology to try to solve some of the problems that I think the health care system really has trouble fixing.
And so I did some foundational research at Boston Medical Center at Boston University using immersive technology to deliver group based care for chronic disease management, which I really love. The idea of using social networks to solve lifestyle and chronic disease type problems. And through that work, I developed some technology that we then translated to starting up See Yourself Health, which is now in its fifth year, as an early-stage start-up.
What Is The History of See Yourself Health?
The history of See Yourself Health is that, as I mentioned, we started out developing a platform through my academic research and then having been through a number of research experiences where the work we did really was meaningful to health care, and was adopted widely across the country.
I had that perspective with See Yourself Health. Once we started to see positive results in our research trials, I felt like we had something the world probably needs. And so at that time, I met a CEO of a major health plan who approached me and gave me the opportunity to try implementing our platform in his neighborhood. And so that’s where we founded See Yourself Health.
And since then, we’ve been trying to grow into different markets. And right now, we’re trying to adapt our platform for older adults who are generally underserved when it comes to digital health and other technology. So we’re funded right now by the National Institute on Aging, and they’re helping us develop new features in our platform that will accommodate the needs of older adults.
What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
So what inspires me is when a patient or a person living with a problem finds solution and connections that help them live better. And also when we stump the people who think that our patient population can’t use technology.
So last year, when I was working with a woman who’s 83 years old. She told me that she said, “Dr. Mitchell, I’m not finished yet.” And she learned how to use our platform, our technology. And she gave me some really good feedback. She said, “You know, if I can’t have an avatar who has gray hair and silver sneakers, then I’m not sure I could feel like I belong here.” That really helped me understand how to design and develop technology features that makes people feel like they belong there, that this technology was made for them.
So that inspires me. And I know that there’s more that we can do that can help a broader audience of people really benefit from the technological advances that other people are benefiting from.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
I think one of the most difficult challenges that I’ve had has been waiting for healthcare to catch up with my vision: that people can connect in an environment that’s engaging and social and professional and purposeful and imaginative so that they can get better health. Waiting for healthcare and healthcare leaders to believe that people will adopt this kind of experience has been challenging.
But the best way to deal with a challenge like that is just to demonstrate the proof is in the pudding. And that’s when people come and use it and master it. They don’t just use it, I have people that have been in my platform community for three years, coming week after week to help each other, but also to be helped. And to be part of a community and a movement for helping people live better with diabetes.
What Advice Can You Offer Other Entrepreneurs?
You know, everybody wants to tell you, don’t give up. And I think that that’s important. I would say, don’t expect it to be easy. I think you’ll be really inspired by your vision, and you’ll be challenged by it every single day, many times a day, and you’ve got to stick it out. But it won’t be easy. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but it will be well worth it.
Where Do You See See Yourself Health In 3-5 Years?
In three to five years, I would like to see See Yourself Health in the hands of every person who needs it. I think that chronic disease is escalating every year. Thanks to medical advancements, people can live longer with chronic disease, even cancer is becoming a chronic disease. But that means that people have to live longer managing a complex illness. So I hope in three to five years See Yourself Health is available to everyone who needs it.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided to See Yourself Health?
Gesmer Updegrove and the folks here that have been advisors to us have been much more than professional service for us. I feel the confidence that you have people looking out for you, for your best interest, as you navigate relationships, contracting, hiring people, getting into relationships that have big commitments and risk, have your back. You know that there’s somebody there watching out for you.
And it’s a lonely journey sometimes. And you have somebody that you can call that will be there just to listen to your worries, not just when you have a problem that they think they can solve.
Why “Go With Gesmer”?
I Go with Gesmer because I feel like they’re always there. If Peter (Moldave) doesn’t have the answer for me, he has somebody who will respond to my need pretty quickly; almost immediately in my experience. If you end up in a situation you’ve never been in before, if he doesn’t know the answer, he certainly knows who will be able to answer my question.
I also think that Steve Snyder is the most well networked, amazing person that I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and has helped me especially networking to people who’ve advanced my company. And that’s much more than just an attorney client relationship.
Click below to read more about the attorneys involved with See Yourself Health.
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