Ultra EM:  Improving Ultrasound Training and Proficiency for the Emergency Medical Community

While stuck at home during the pandemic last year, Malcolm Roberson was playing video games in between medical school classes and endless studying when he had a realization. It occurred to him that there was an opportunity to change the way UVA and other medical schools deliver ultrasound training that could greatly improve engagement and retention for the students learning and employing the technology. Malcolm spent some time conceptualizing his idea and later shared it with his good friends David, Ramey, and Carson. The excitement for the project quickly grew as their team invested numerous hours detailing their vision, which paid off just weeks later as they celebrated their first entrepreneurial victory after winning UVA's Fall 2020 Phase I Entrepreneurship Cup for Healthcare Innovation.

Ultra EM is a medical education company, committed to creating accessible and interactive ultrasound educational software with the end goal of improving ultrasound proficiency, and ultimately saving lives. The current options for ultrasound education consist of static learning modules, videos, and expensive hardware applications. Additionally, the pandemic underscored a need for reliable ultrasound learning methods that students can leverage without direct patient contact. To flip the current ultrasound training paradigm on its head, Ultra EM created a high-fidelity dynamic ultrasound simulator to improve learner proficiency in image-interpretation and medical decision-making in a fun and gamified way. The use of simulators for Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) education protects patients and learners from mistakes during training, enables the use of reproducible clinical scenarios, and permits the inclusion of measurable performance metrics. Structured simulation-based training has been shown to improve learner proficiency, which has been shown to translate to improved clinical outcomes.

Malcolm, David, Ramey, and Carson have a strong team with contagious energy that they’ve harnessed to take the concept and turn it into a medical training program available for use today. Following UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup, they continued to leverage the principles of effectual entrepreneurship through bootstrapping their efforts and executing a thoughtful roadmap to transform the initial prototype to an extensive training program.  From tapping into a network of strong mentors, to building the wireframes, acquiring and capturing ultrasound images, and developing case studies for medical students and professionals, Ultra EM sets the example for a successful startup that takes the Bird In Hand Principle (who you are, who you know, what you know) to push an idea into a profitable venture. 

With a library of 25 completed patient cases, Ultra EM continues to rapidly gain traction within the medical community because many have acknowledged the value Ultra EM is delivering—a repeatable and scalable method to objectively train and measure a medical professional’s ultrasound proficiency. Ultra EM presents users with a patient case and gives them the opportunity to practice performing and interpreting each aspect of the Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) exam. After viewing each of the ultrasound images, users make a clinical decision based on their findings. Upon completion of a series of cases, learners can track their performance and assess their strengths and areas to target improvement.

All medical students can create an account on the Ultra EM website if they’d like to start improving their ultrasound skills for free today.  Additionally, Ultra EM is continuing to expand their partnerships with medical schools across the US and internationally and are also establishing a training program for Continuing Medical Education in support of annual training all doctors must meet to maintain their medical license. 

The Ultra EM team is motivated by passion – they want to inspire the next generation of health professionals by making a training technology that is fun, educational, and practical. The six values they see as fundamental to the company are Creativity, Integrity, Innovation, Fun, Collaboration, and Determination. As black founders, they are excited about inspiring other people of color to pursue and thrive in entrepreneurship.

About the Founders:

Malcolm Roberson, Ultra EM Chief Executive Officer and co-founder is an emergency medicine resident at Trident Medical center, holding both MD and MBA degrees from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Darden School of Business. He loves solving problems, and as an avid gamer, thrilled about the potential to make a game that builds on existing technologies to combine with his interests in medical technology and education. David Agumya, Ultra EM Chief Technical Officer and co-founder is a software developer and game engineer. He graduated from Morehouse College in 2015 with a degree in Business Administration and holds an MS in Computer Science with a concentration in Distributed Systems software development. He continues to push Ultra EM to the next level with his development and coding skills. Carson Lunsford, Ultra EM Chief Operations Officer and co-founder has experience in entrepreneurship, consulting, and marketing and shares a passion for education and technology. He graduated from San Diego State University in 2018 with a degree in Public Administration and is rapidly building awareness and interest in the Ultra EM technology through daily engagement with medical professionals.  He is motivated to help create innovative technology that will disrupt the education industry, while empowering the next generation of leaders. Ramey Elsarrag, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder is a 2020 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, currently training as an Internal Medicine resident at UVA. He is the Ultra EM case-writer and lead researcher, running the first Ultra EM pilot program at UVA’s medical school.

To stay informed about the latest news on Ultra EM, check out their website, https://projectultraem.com/index.html, or email the team directly at projectultraem@gmail.com.