Watch the Virtual EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator Finale
Watch as the seven extraordinary innovators presented their business models and concepts that promote health equity, sustainability and community transformation.
The candidates highlighted their work and impact to a panel of expert judges.
National EmPOWERED to Serve™ Accelerator
Joel Acevedo-Nieto Ph.D., Sharp Focus
Dr. Joel Acevedo-Nieto is the founder of Sharp Focus, a cognitive training platform for those who have difficulty concentrating. Nieto specializes in cognitive neuroscience in health tech. He seeks solutions for cognitive performance, disabilities and learning problems.
Nieto has created therapies through emerging technologies, integrating complex cognition concepts and adapting them to virtual scenarios.
Suffering from ADHD as child, Nieto learned to control his emotions and thoughts through intentional eye exercise while playing baseball for 15 years.
Now, he’s devoted to creating social impact on those who struggle with mental clarity, paying attention and memory. His mission is to help people better control their minds and emotions through intentional ocular exercise using virtual reality technologies in a non-invasive way.
After being diagnosed with hypertension due mainly to poor stress and emotions management, Nieto improved his heart health using eye-exercise tools that train his inhibitory control skills. It’s related to his neuroscience training in neurofeedback with alpha and gamma waves to improve mental performance.
Abigail Kohler, ResusciTech First Place Recipient
Abigail Kohler co-founded ResusciTech to empower people to save lives by taking action during medical emergencies.
Her passion for medicine and helping people maintain their composure during emergencies drew her to issues related to sudden cardiac arrest and CPR quality.
ResusciTech’s app, SMART Certification, provides people with convenient, smartphone-based training that provides Hands-Only CPR compression practice with real-time feedback.
Kohler soon hopes to release a mobile medical app to give people real-time compression feedback during actual emergencies.
ResusciTech recently won the MedTech track of the Rhode Island Business Competition, placed in the top six as a finalist in MassChallenge Rhode Island and finished third in the Brown Venture Prize.
Before starting ResusciTech, Kohler graduated in May from Brown University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering.
While attending Brown, Abigail worked as a data analyst and software developer in a bioacoustics research lab, co-founded a student group dedicated to using engineering for humanitarian causes and served as a teaching assistant in an instrumentation design class.
News and Highlights
American Heart Association crowdsources solutions in the fight against heart disease CNBC SQUAWK BOX interview with Sharon Epperson featuring Abigail Kohler's work article courtesy cnbc.com
Mason Lucich Insu Health Design
Mason Lucich is a mechanical engineer turned industrial designer, recently earning his master’s degree in industrial design from the University of Houston. He describes himself as a "tinkerer" with a passion for dissecting problems and finding solutions.
In 2019, Lucich co-founded Insu Health Design with collaborators from the University of Puerto Rico. Insu Health Design’s mission is to serve the underserved globally through novel technology and design, with an initial focus on providing biomedicine users a product to protect their medication.
In 2018, on the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico, Lucich traveled there with the University of Houston graduate design studio to learn about problems experienced by Puerto Rico residents and to design a product to solve one of those problems. (University of Puerto Rico students designed a business plan for that product.) The design group decided to focus on biomedicine storage at the behest of residents from across the island, including biomedicine users and hospital executives, as well as representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Through product development, research and customer interviews, designers learned that the problem with home biomedicine storage extends beyond disaster relief, and they founded Insu Health Design to continue development work and to take their product to market.
Lucich was born in the United States and grew up in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. He has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University, and is an avid traveler who plans to resume his travels after the pandemic.
Prathamesh Prabhudesai, Safe BVM Runner Up and Fan Favorite Paragraph
Prathamesh Prabhudesai co-founded SafeBVM to increase access to safe and personalized manual ventilation.
SafeBVM focuses on preventing human errors/provider-associated complications of manual ventilation that worsen patient outcomes and increase health care costs. Its device helps providers deliver safe and optimal manual ventilation to people in cardiac arrest and respiratory distress.
Prabhudesai’s dual background in engineering and medicine fuels his efforts to use technology to address healthcare challenges related to training, cost, access and low doctor-patient ratio.
While working in India’s under-resourced communities, Prabhudesai frequently had to manually ventilate patients with a BVM due to a shortage of ventilators.
As part of his master’s thesis at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, he identified problems in emergency medical services. His team connected with several health care professionals such as firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, nurses and physicians. They went on an ambulance ride-along, attended conferences and spoke with over 300 stakeholders as they learned more about unsafe manual ventilation with a BVM.
Many underfunded EMS and other agencies in the U.S. don’t have resources for ventilators, maintenance and provider training.
Connor Schoen Breaktime
Connor Schoen co-founded Breaktime in 2018 to help overcome chronic homelessness among young adults in Greater Boston.
Through early intervention, his nonprofit social enterprise empowers people who are homeless to nurture their talents, launch their careers and serve their communities.
“We believe everyone deserves the chance to take control of their own careers and destinies and, ultimately, find their way home,” Schoen said.
COVID-19 interrupted Schoen’s efforts to open a café to provide jobs. So he quickly adapted and partnered with a landlord/wholesale provider to create Breaktime’s Double Impact initiative that includes 20 career-launching culinary jobs.
In just six months, Double Impact has become one of Boston’s largest donated meal operations — already providing over 50,000 meals for people in need. It also includes a hub-and-spoke system that has distributed more than 250,000 pounds of groceries.
“I am inspired to do this work because 40% of young adults experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, and when I was coming out, these resilient young people were an incredible source of inspiration, strength and support for me,” Schoen said.
Fueled by their support, Schoen also finished his last year at Harvard University. Now, he’s scaling Breaktime full time with the support of Harvard’s Pforzheimer Public Service Fellowship.
Melissa Strawn, Safebeat
Melissa Strawn is a special programs director at SafeBeat, a national initiative that provides local and regional preventative heart screenings to reduce sudden cardiac death among youths. During her many years in childhood education, Strawn has been dedicated to teaching skills to students to flourish physically, mentally and emotionally.
Strawn, who had tachycardia (a fast heartbeat), is ardent about providing heart screenings to young people. Because she was active, she didn’t know she had the condition until age 25, when she underwent an electrophysiology study and a catheter ablation to address her abnormal heart rhythm.
After the procedures, Strawn’s doctor told her husband she was “lucky” that her heart hadn’t “exploded.” She now knows that he was referring to suffering cardiac arrest.
“I feel very blessed that my life was spared through a successful procedure,” Strawn said. “I did not know back then that heart screenings were even available.”
When Strawn learned about SafeBeat, she said, “I knew I had to be a part of the mission. How could I pass up the opportunity to be a part of saving the life of a young person?
“I am extremely passionate about saving lives and creating a healthier generation through preventative heart screenings and educating others on the use of CPR and an AED.”
Christopher Temblador, Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Christopher Temblador is a business counselor for the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network program of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. He assists neighborhood market owners in building capacity and infrastructure of healthy food business operations.
Prior to joining the food policy council, as an independent consultant Temblador empowered business and community leaders by providing critical services to grow micro-enterprises, small businesses and nonprofit organizations in South Los Angeles.
Temblador supported the development of a new social enterprise at the University of Southern California. He also expanded a community leadership group at the Partnership for LA Schools in the Watts, Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles neighborhoods.
He is most proud of being a business development advocate for minority-owned NTS Communications’ relationships with Fox Studios, Disney, Warner Brothers and Universal Studios.
Temblador has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science with a focus on community change from San Jose State University and has studied business management in its Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.
He’s also an investor and board member at With Love Market and Cafe in South Los Angeles.