What started as a capstone project has transformed into a medical device company. Vincent (Vinny) Sciortino, Vikram Seshadri, and Kevin Chang, recent graduates of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, founded SergoMED to improve physicians' health and ultimately the quality of patients’ procedures.
Vinny spent the summer before his fourth year as a Biomedical Engineer Clinical Scholar identifying medical problems to solve later in a capstone project. His curiosity led him to seek shadowing opportunities within different departments in UVA’s medical center beyond those assigned to him. Vinny explored gastroenterology and ended up meeting Dr. Dushant Uppal, MD.
Vinny watched Dr. Uppal’s procedures in real-time and learned that Dr. Uppal’s left thumb typically hurts after performing procedures. The pain requires icing the thumb and in some cases Dr. Uppal even takes pain medication. 28% Of gastroenterologists suffer from this musculoskeletal overuse.
The endoscope hasn’t changed since the 1950s, a time when most gastroenterologists were men. The device is a one size fits all model with two dials, one controlling vertical movement and the other controlling horizontal movement. Both dials are maneuvered by the physician’s left thumb as the other fingers grip around the device’s handle to control two other button features. It is certainly an awkward position to hold for a long period of time.
Female physicians, performing endoscopies, now makeup 20% of the field and typically have smaller hands compared to males. Since the dials are built for a larger-sized hand, females hold the majority of gastroenterologists who experience repetitive strain injuries on the left thumb.
However, male gastroenterologists still experience this problem. Dr. Uppal is a prime example. The procedures he performs are more complex than the average colonoscopy and take about twice as long.
The three founders don’t want to fully disrupt the status quo gastroenterologists are used to. Their design maintains the existing maneuvering controls with a simple attachment that takes less than 30 seconds to install onto the endoscope.
SergoMED's attachment model
The attachment reduces the amount of force and muscle activation needed in order to rotate the dials the same degrees of motion. Additionally, there is an internal ration mechanism that allows the dials to lock into place as they are turned, further improving the ergonomics of the endoscope.
SergoMED is currently working on the next iteration of its endoscope attachment. Chris Dauber, a rising fourth year studying Mechanical Engineering is assisting the founders in designing and prototyping this next model. The team is committed to bringing the best version of its product to the market.
The founders already have physicians willing and eager to test out their device. They want to solve this under-recognized problem and other ergonomic challenges in specialties across the medical arena to prevent more injuries by physicians.
Kevin in particular had no prior entrepreneurship experience but says “(SergoMED) definitely gave me the bug.”
It’s paradoxical to think a doctor would incur pain while performing surgery, however, with the mission of SergoMED, it will no longer be the reality. The founders' ambition and passion for solving ergonomic issues indicate no signs of slowing down in their pursuit of improving physicians’ experiences.
Watch this video for more info on SergoMED's endoscope attachment