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Experiences

Experience One (300 Hour)

Description

My 300-hour experience occurred over the summer after my junior year (Summer 2021).  I had an internship position, specifically as a Biomedical R&D Intern, for the start-up company called Attwill Medical Solutions. This experience was not only a technical, but a holistic role that helped me gain experience in all aspects of a medical start-up company.  I learned about technical design, funding, clinical research, marketing and SEO, and succeeding in a start-up community.

However, I specifically focused on a venture they had recently purchased—Trulacta. Trulacta is a pharmaceutical/nutraceutical product, meaning much of my research and role in the organization involved researching and understanding clinical trials, grant funding, and regulatory affairs. This aspect of the role is one of the reasons why I chose to pursue this experience. I have a lot of technical skills from designing and creating under academic guidelines but getting experience specifically in the medical industry where there is a lot of regulations and aspects of medical grant writing that you can only gain from experience has really been invaluable.

 

Reflection

One of the problems that I had identified during this experience was the lack of an effective pre-clinical model that I can use to test the supplement.  This testing would qualify as the phase 1 clinical trial and would require a large grant.  I had to generate ideas that would give the best outcomes for my boss and the company. Primarily I needed something novel, as that is something generally rewarded with more money, as well as that it needed to be time and cost effective and extremely accurate.  Pulling on my BME experience at Duke and working with the Duke Health I&E: Innovators Academy, I was able to come up with an idea of looking into licensing/purchasing of the novel organoid models of the gastrointestinal system.  My mentor and boss loved the idea as it combined all the needs of the assignment.

However, I have sometimes not been as successful.  One failure I had during this experience was not being able to find supporting research on a certain clinical scenario. I originally viewed this as a failure, but now have come to realize that not all data will support a product.  However, that data is still crucial to discover and use to improve the product.

Some of the most important things I have learned in this experience has come from meetings with my boss. I think that being constantly ready to learn and ask questions has been one of my greatest tools.  My boss has a wealth of knowledge in the industry that I am incredibly interested in pursuing in my career, so being able to speak up, and ask questions has taught me so much.  I’ve learned about the business side of med-tech companies, as well as the legal and clinical sides. But, overall, the main lesson I took away from the experience is to always speak up and be ready to learn.

 

Artifact

Due to the nature of my technical and research memos, I have chosen to use a published blog post I had written for the product website for NDA reasons.  It can be found at https://www.trulacta.com/blogs/news and is below. Although it is not one of the more technical aspects of my experience, it was an additional responsibility that I had that helped to round out my experience at the company.  Additionally, it helped me to practice effective and clear communication while detailing difficult topics like health and medicine.

5 Simple Ways for Men to Improve Gut Health

 Your gut health plays a role in not only your physical health, but also your mental health. Having a healthy gut can improve your well-being and your productivity at work, at the gym, and in life. However, if your gut is out of balance, the negative consequences will quickly become apparent. If you are asking yourself “Why does my stomach feel off?” or “Why has my weight changed?”, you may be experiencing an unhealthy gut. Other signs might include your skin breaking out or feeling overly stressed and anxious. These are all major signals that your gut needs some help.

What makes a gut healthy or unhealthy? Diet is not the only factor—sleep, stress, exercise, and many other aspects of your everyday life can have an impact on your gut.

While you may not be able to change some of these factors, here are five simple ways to start improving your gut health.

Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, pickles, miso, or sauerkraut are full of probiotics, which are a good type of bacteria that your gut loves. If none of those sound tasty to you, another easy way to boost your good stomach bacteria is to eat yogurt and certain cheeses. Although not all cheeses promote good bacteria growth, most goudas, mozzarellas, and cottage cheeses have active cultures of good bacteria, making it a delicious and nutritious probiotic.

Eat Prebiotic Foods. Like the probiotics, prebiotics promote good bacteria to multiply in your gut. Some of these foods include asparagus, bananas, chicory, garlic, onions, and whole grains. When paired with probiotics, this makes for a powerful mix that will boost your gut health.

Eat Less Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners. Consuming an excess of sugar can throw off the balance of bacteria in your stomach. This is particularly true for artificial sweeteners, which promote the growth of bacteria strains that have been shown to lead to metabolic diseases (diseases that increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease). Limiting sodas, juices, and flavored coffee drinks can drastically cut your daily sugar intake and keep your stomach happy.

Exercise Regularly. Exercise benefits you in many ways. It contributes to great heart health, weight loss and maintenance, and promotes good bacteria in your gut. Going to the gym to do weight training, cardio, or even walking your dog can all have a positive effect on your stomach.

 Get Enough Consistent Sleep. Research has found that the gut-brain connection plays a bigger role in gut health than we may think. Getting better and more consistent sleep has been shown to improve the bacteria growth in your gut. Having a good sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, promotes the healthy release of hormones that can have a huge positive impact on stomach bacteria.

Choosing to follow a few, or all, of these tips is an easy way to make a difference in your gut, and help to improve your mood, skin, stomach, and overall health.

Experience 2 (150 Hour)

Description

This experience was a part of the Duke I&E Summer Innovation Sprint (SIS). I attended this program over Summer 2020 after the spring of my sophomore year. I chose to participate in this program because adaptive clothing and helping the disabled community is something that I am actively passionate about. Joining this program allowed me to be paired with another student passionate about the same things and wanting to create a solution.
During our research we quickly learned that the disabled community, one of the largest minority groups in the US, is excluded in the world of fashion. Adaptive clothing is a category of clothing designed specifically for people with disabilities, elderly people, and hospital patients. The market for adaptive clothing is on the rise, yet many brands are struggling to meet the needs of this diverse customer base. All the adaptive lines that currently exist fall short on at least one level, considering appearance, function, and cost. We believe the disabled community needs more attractive, functional, affordable clothing options because current options do not meet these needs.
To explore potential solutions for the problem we identified, we met with a few existing fashion companies to hear their perspectives and experiences and learn how best we can help this underserved community. Additionally, we joined and posted on many disabled forums to further understand the needs of the customer. At the end of the program, we presented our final proposal, using months’ worth of data and insights from the interviews.

Reflection

It was clear after our research there was no one solution, so we generated three ideas. Our first solution would be to encourage brands to implement small changes to becoming more inclusive to the disability community. This addresses the quantity and industry problem that arises when a fashion company would want to create an entirely new line of adaptive clothing. So, this change in the fashion industry would be to produce clothing that works for both able bodied and disabled shoppers. The second potential solution would be to turn to investigating technologies that make “made to order” production possible. We have found from our research that the fashion industry is moving from mass production to smaller quantities and made to order. This can be used to our advantage, and we can use this technology to solve the quantity and production problem of making adaptive clothing. Technologies like body scanning are in the lead for the industry, however there is still more research that must be done to solidify the technology. A third solution could be to pursue policy change. This would incentivize companies to enter the adaptive clothing market, or to even make it required, like a ramp is required in public establishments. Normalizing the adaptive industry through policy could push more companies to make adaptive lines.
During this program, we had many instances of failure. Unfortunately, in the world of start-ups, even if there is a need and a market, it still may not be a successful and feasible idea. That is what we found at the end of the day. Without new technology or policy change, it would be an incredible economic strain on any fashion company that wants to produce adaptive clothing. We learned a lot from this. It was hard to discover this after a whole summer of work and research, but it was a valuable and very realistic experience that many entrepreneurs face.
The most important thing that I learned from this experience was the value and the necessity of very detailed market research. Without our preparation and research, we would have been incredibly underprepared and naïve in front of our interviewees and the disabled community. Through the mini-presentations and courses from the SIS program, I felt very prepared to do thorough research that earned me the respect from the major companies and the disables community.

Artifact

The artifact below is the final deliverable from the Summer Innovation Sprint (SIS). It is linked below and can be viewed after opening the link.  During the experience, this was presented to our peers and mentors over Zoom.  Additional Documentation that supports the deliverable has been added below as well.

Concept pitch

An Adaptive Clothing Consulting Concept

According to a 2011 World Health Organization report, 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of a disability.1 6.6% of people in the US have an ambulatory or self-care disability, making it extremely difficult to find clothing to wear.2 For example, someone in a wheelchair with an ambulatory disability cannot have pants with back pockets, zippers, or buttons, because it can cause lesions that could get infected. Additionally, it is also extremely hard to get dressed with a disability. Adaptive clothing has become a recently popular solution to this problem. However, the current selection does not fit the needs for every person’s disability and personal style. Fashion empowers people, however, the disabled community is currently excluded in the world of fashion.

One billion people worldwide live with a disability.1 In the United States alone, almost 43 million people live with a disability. Narrowing the scope even more, roughly 21 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 have an ambulatory disability, which is an impairment that prevents or impedes the ability to walk.2 This last population has been identified as the immediately addressable market, with the goal market of reaching all one billion people worldwide who live with a disability.

Analyzing the monetary measures, it’s seen that the global market for adaptive clothing is rapidly growing. The 2017 market was about $278.9 billion, and is projected to grow to $400 billion by 2026.3 Looking at industry trends, only a handful of mainstream brands are currently in the adaptive industry, and they’ve all entered within the last 5 years. In general, it was found that companies are hesitant to enter the adaptive space without completely understanding the needs and the market–due to the risk of injuring their consumers. This is the major concern and reason behind the small number of companies slowly entering the market.

Pre-existing brands like Nike, Tommy Adaptive, and Target, have some effective products, but they only cater to a specific style. Nike Flyease is a great option for kids and young adults who want an athletic shoe, but many customers are looking for more fashionable options, like booties. Tommy adaptive has an extensive line, however the preppy style and expensive price tag make it only accessible for a customer with a high disposable income that likes to wear a lot of navy. And Target only has one pair of jeans in their entire womens adaptive collection. Despite these problems, one major flaw we have found through our data is that many disabled people don’t know adaptive clothing exists. All of these companies have ample resources and a popular platform to advertise these lines, however they fail to effectively reach their customer.

In order to learn more about potential customers and specific consumer needs, we utilized many different resources, like TED talks, online forums, surveys, and reviews for products that already exist. We quickly saw that there were three main categories for product satisfaction: appearance, functionality, and affordability. Of the brands that currently exist, each one falls short on at least one of these levels. It is clear that the current adaptive clothing options are not meeting the needs of the disability community in these categories. We also took note of what items seemed to have the most demand, and simply put, there is demand for everything. We heard many people seeking traditional adaptive pant, shirt, and shoe options, and also requests for front clasp bras, workwear, cowboy boots, everything you could think of. It is clear that the current options do not meet the needs of the disability community, and that there is also a shortage in options to begin with.

We’ve already established that the disabled community is currently excluded in the world of fashion, the adaptive clothing market is rapidly growing, and many existing adaptive clothing lines fall short on at least one mark. We believe the disabled community needs more attractive, functional, affordable clothing options because current options do not meet these needs.

Proposal

It is evident that the disabled community, one of the largest minority groups in the US, has a need for adaptive clothing solutions. The market for adaptive clothing is on the rise, yet many brands are struggling to meet the needs of this diverse customer base. All of the adaptive lines that currently exist fall short on at least one level, considering appearance, function, and cost. There is a huge opportunity in the adaptive clothing space for new lines which meet all three of these marks. We’ve determined that the most optimal solution is to help established fashion companies produce adaptive clothing lines by building a team with diverse knowledge and experiences to guide design and marketing efforts.

The advantage to our solution is multi-faceted as it benefits both the companies and the consumers. Established fashion companies already have the means to create clothes and shoes. They have designers, manufacturers, and numerous other resources. While it may seem daunting to create an entire new line, the cost of creating a clothing line for disabled customers is actually comparable to creating an extended size collection. The main reason many companies have not entered this market yet, is because they don’t fully understand it. Brands need input from medical professionals and the disabled community, or they run the risk of injuring their customers. Our team would help educate and guide these established companies by congregating resources for the design sector, as well as personally assisting the marketing sector with advertising. A key component of this effort is to incorporate more disabled models and adaptive clothing in marketing campaigns. Ultimately, the established companies would profit financially from entering this expansive market while also building an inclusive brand reputation.

Just as the companies involved would reap major benefits, the target consumer base would also benefit from our solution. As mentioned throughout this documentation, current adaptive options are extremely limited. By expanding adaptive lines throughout mainstream fashion companies, the consumers would find a variety of style options in every price range. Further, the disabled community would be able to wear the same brands as their able-bodied peers. With our approach, we would be able to provide more solutions simultaneously. We can work with one company to develop everyday shirts and pants, while working with another to create sophisticated workwear. Our consulting concept would not only help the companies access this growing market, but would also meet the direct consumer’s needs for better adaptive clothing options. By making the fashion industry more inclusive, we can help the disabled community feel more confident and independent than ever before.

References
[1] WHO. (2011) World Report on Disability. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
[2] Kraus, L., Lauer, E., Coleman, R., and Houtenville, A. (2018). 2017 Disability Statistics Annual
Report. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire.
[3] Gaffney, A. (2019) The $400 billion adaptive clothing opportunity: Vogue Business.