Best Way to Contact Debbie:
Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes, and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.
Saul Marquez: And welcome back to the podcast. Today I have Dr. Debbie Teodorescu. She’s the founder of SurgiBox Inc. Doctor Teodorescu funded SurgiBox while at Harvard Medical School and she continues to serve as lead of Project’s SurgiBox and President of the Board of Directors of SurgiBox Inc. I had the pleasure of meeting her at this year’s TEDMED event truly inspired by the work that she was doing. She was actually duly trained as a physician and engineer. She also served as founding leadership of the Harvard Medical maker space initiative and the Crimson Care Collaborative Cambridge Clinic with the focus on female patients with a history of trauma and refugees. Yes I know that many many have covered the topic of who these research projects are being done on and who drug approvals are being done on and so Debbie’s work is really working hard to span and include a more diversified background especially women and patients being treated. A physician at lifespan, Teodorescu is pioneering the physician investigator innovator pathway and volunteers at a refugee clinic there. So tons on this bright leader’s plate and it’s a pleasure to have had her carve out some time for us. Debbie welcome to the podcast.
Debbie Teodorescu: Thanks for having me Saul.
Saul Marquez: It is a pleasure. So you totally like rocked the socks off of the folks at TEDMED So firstly congratulations.
Debbie Teodorescu: Thank you. It was a delight to be there.
Saul Marquez: And it was a pleasure to hear about your mission and the things that you guys are up to at SurgiBox. Why did you decide to get into the medical sector to begin with?
Debbie Teodorescu: So it’s been, my goodness. I think it would be it would be a shorter period of time to say when I didn’t want to get into the medical sector somehow. I think that growing up and seeing the folks around me getting sick and having seen the folks who had the power to make people better. That was incredibly powerful for me. But I think I had a nice journey throughout the different ways that, innumerable different ways that people can impact health early in my high school and college career. So I took a pretty serious amount of thought and to doing health advocacy, health law, health journalism, all those different things in a lot of different flavors of health research. So all of those really colored my my ideas that well health and making health better is really not by any means not liked by any single group or any single profession.
Saul Marquez: Yeah I think that’s such a great, great call out and you’re particularly interested and really the refugee focus and improving access safety quality of care, you what do you think a hot topic that needs to be on every medical leaders agenda today. What is that and how are you and your team at SurgiBox approaching it?
Debbie Teodorescu: I think that trend both in terms of what our patients need and what we were seeing even at TEDMED and a lot of the environment really are clear and where they coincide that we need to figure out how to deliver care where the patients need it and when the patients are needing it whether it’s speaking from the perspective of medical devices or digital delivery or health care systems innovation I think that’s definitely where we have to we have to go really a patient centric focus.
Saul Marquez: And SurgiBox does just that. So for the listeners that haven’t been introduced to the work of your company let’s level set with them. Can you share with them what you guys do?
Debbie Teodorescu: Yes, the SurgiBox is overall operating room and a backpack system that seeks to make surgery safe for wherever and wherever that it’s needed. Specifically, providers would feel a clear plastic bubble against the patient’s skin right over where they would be having an operation and operate through ports on the side of that clear plastic bubble and they can just cut right through the area feel to get the skin and the entire tip clean through a state of the art filter laminar airflow system and that keeps the insights of that cleaner than the cleanest operating rooms in really anywhere in the world while on the other hand the clear plastic enclosure protects the providers that are operating through it from the blood splashes that usually infect a lot of them each year. A lot of us each year.
Saul Marquez: That’s innovative, that’s brilliant. And folks just imagine yourself doing something you love your skiing, you’re hiking or maybe you’re just out on Route 66 trying to get somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And you need surgery ASAP. Well what Debbie and her team have developed will enable that. And it’s just it’s a great opportunity for you to get the care at the point of where it’s necessary without having to deal with infections and all the nasty things that are out in the air or even the cost of delays that could be definitely and also very very detrimental to you as a patient can you give her an example to the listeners Debbie of how you and your team have created results?
Debbie Teodorescu: So we’ve really focused on ethical device development. So we always ensure that it’s going regardless of the where it’s going to be applied that it’s going through the same rigorous standards. So right now we are still going through a lot of people testing before we go through the regulatory process to be able to run for human testing but we still get a lot of human factors testing to give you an example. We recently had Jeff deployed as part of Operation Bushmaster with the in tandem with our partners health innovations International and the uniform uses the blind folks in the military who are in their training on combat missions. So we deployed as part of that. And so we got to see how SurgiBox behaves in a very high fidelity realistic deployment situation where they had mock mass casualty events where they had actual bombings and they were being dropped out of helicopters and on the other side of the spectrum during the same troop deployment they were going to Culver village and tending to folks who were afflicted with diseases that are similar to the sort of things that are our military or an end user facing every single day in a humanitarian setting. So those helped us to better understand exactly where SurgiBox is helpful and really Church of Christ. I think the kind of goes to the theme of our conversation too. We found that people like the idea of having search box closer and closer and closer to the patient because even at the very point of injury it seems to offer some benefit to the combat medics who are trying to tend to the folks who are really in their very worst hour.
Saul Marquez: Very, very fascinating.
Debbie Teodorescu: That was not unexpected but you just plain have to have to see and really test to be able to understand.
Saul Marquez: Love that yeah you gotta be open to the results whether or not there’s something that you thought would happen. So based on that idea being open, what would you say is a time that you had a setback and what did you learn from that?
Debbie Teodorescu: Oh gosh as I think any entrepreneur who’s obviously I’d say that there are there have been numerous ups and downs to the whole process. I think that probably the most illustrative or probably the most interesting to listeners is so we’re truly a generation six of SurgiBox and each of them have been important to our development. the one generation in particular I had thought and I hoped at the time that generation 3 would be our last system. We had gone from the idea of Surgiboxing a real box into a system that is kind of a template system you insert some PPC tubing through film and you operate through it kind of a trust that kind of system. And we spent a lot of time testing in real finding that yeah it’s actually very ergonomic for the course of that procedure. And it was only towards the end of it we were very optimistically thing. All right. This is gonna be it that we really got to appreciate. You know there’s one single setback which is that it was easy to use for the procedure after it’s set up. It’s a bit of a pain to set up when you’re in a field or in sort of austere settings. It took longer than we would want to do a shorter than bring an entire operating room in there for sure but when our goal winner you know design goal all along was we want to really fit into existing workflows. We realized when we finally ran the full workflow testing that we could do a lot better and hence that inspired generations, four through six, which really lives much much more to it because we learned from that to explicitly build workflow testing and more operational and logistics testing way earlier into our testing chain.
Saul Marquez: Love that. Yeah. So it’s neat. I mean you didn’t stop there you kept building and now you have a version of the system that’s a lot better. What would you say one of your proudest moments is?
Debbie Teodorescu: Oh gosh this is…
Saul Marquez: From the trenches to the skies, Debbie. Take us there.
Debbie Teodorescu: Challenge medical leadership moment. I think that I think it was the day that we finalized our first hire keep an open team who is our Chief Technology Officer and a brilliant engineer. Like a lot of our members of the team he had started out helping out in donating his time incredibly generously but I think that the day that we were able to find him on full time and say you can focus on just plain making Surgibox work like you’ve clearly been wanting to do when you’re volunteering and all of your spare time and just making your day job. I think that was that was an absolute dream come true for me as a medical leader that we can really marshal forces the passion that goes into the project and really really help it along. And so that’s really been a tremendous highlight of my experience.
Saul Marquez: Love that. Congratulations on that hire and kind of reminds us you know any any leader that’s kind of flying solo for a while or at least you know has volunteers or whatever working for them you get employee number one or that first member of the team. It’s really just it definitely is a key moment where you’re like Yeah. You know this is this is it. And it kind of I’m not sure Debbie if you’ve seen that video where there’s a guy dancing in the field and it goes like this a lone nut. And then the lone nut becomes a leader once he has its first follower. And then it goes from this one guy dancing in the field to like a party. And and that’s ultimately what it takes here folks is. And Debbie you’re a testament to that right. Yes. Like for a while you have to have a strong enough vision to keep going at it. And folks Debbie went through many iterations of this before having any support. I just want to remind everybody that most people give up after the first or second iteration and it’s not until that fifth or sixth that you really get the others around you to believe. If you don’t believe others won’t. And so a great story shared by by you Debbie and I think one that will help the listeners that are entrepreneurs but also even policymakers and providers stick with whatever they’re they’re trying to implement.
Debbie Teodorescu: Thank you Saul.
Saul Marquez: Absolutely now how about an exciting project. I mean within SurgiBox what’s an exciting project that you guys are working on today?
Debbie Teodorescu: Oh man. There’s so many so I think one of… that’s tricky. There are a lot of things we’re doing to make SurgiBox ever more adaptable and I think one of the sort of cool mini initiatives that we’re running is. So overall we’re you know we’re further sold pretty literally isn’t operating with a backpack system but one of the sort of mini initiatives that we’re running with for with the militarily savvy members of the team we have members from four different countries military and several military branches and it just somehow people seem to coalesce around the idea that help with defense and protection. So those folks are working together to run the mini initiative. The operating room on a stretcher system which is intended to help which is intended to ensure that surgibox not only can get to where it needs to be but can stay where it needs to be which includes as it turns out when you really dig into logistics a lot of transportation and can lug enough people when all that sort of thing. So really ensuring the stability all throughout the entire lifecycle of surgibox has been a pretty cool initiative. So I’m proud that we get to we’ve been able to launch that.
Saul Marquez: That’s awesome. Congratulations and yeah you never know. Right. The effort and the time that you and your team are spending Debbie can be that tool that helps somebody’s dad or somebody’s Mom when they’re in the battlefield and they need it most. So the ripple effect this is big. So keep doing what you’re doing is super exciting.
Debbie Teodorescu: Absolutely.
Saul Marquez: So Debbie getting close to the end here. Let’s pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in the business of medicine. It’s the one on one of Dr. Debbie Teodorescu. And by the way folks that is her last name Teodorescu she’s always to the rescue. And I think it’s very appropriate for the work that you do. So in this lightning round we’ve got five questions for you and then we’ll end the syllabus with a book that you recommend to the listeners, ready?
Debbie Teodorescu: Oh boy. Yeah.
Saul Marquez: All right. What’s the best way to improve health care outcomes?
Debbie Teodorescu: Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s the patients and it’s the providers. Everything else is really bells and whistles to that.
Saul Marquez: What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?
Debbie Teodorescu: Remember when you’re really getting into innovation a no can mean a no in this particular context it can mean a not yet. Or it can just be a sort of a yellow light not a red light. So I think a big part of a big mistake or pitfall really is to see it as a big red light that you can’t cross.
Saul Marquez: Love that. Folks know as a yellow light, it’s not a red light. Love that. I mean…
Debbie Teodorescu: Don’t put it out of context Saul.
Saul Marquez: I won’t for sure but I love the idea. And so how do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?
Debbie Teodorescu: Well I think that a big part of it especially in a very dynamic field is to think about driving the change is to think about your for example the Surgibox to think about how we can contribute to the discourse and the advocacy around things like say surgery and medical innovation because we benefit from that. So certainly we should be paying forward and it affects us too.
Saul Marquez: Love it. What’s one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?
Debbie Teodorescu: It is really taking care of patients. So when we make any changes we’re saying does this affect how quickly we can get to patients. Does it affect how safe we can take care of patients. So really really really it’s for us. It’s about the patients.
Saul Marquez: Love it. Debbie the last one. What’s your number one success habit?
Debbie Teodorescu: Number one success habit. I think it’s having a genuine curiosity. Curiosity and gratitude towards people because I think that you can never really fully circumscribe just what role people have based on the rules of the CBC they have just plain having a sense of gratitude for anything that you’re able to offer and thinking about what you’re able to offer to other people. I’ve certainly felt that that has been repaid many many many million times over for me.
Saul Marquez: Beautifully said and what book would you recommend. It’s part of the syllabus.
Debbie Teodorescu: Ooohh huh. So I know you had warned me about this that there’s so much reading lists these days to keep track. So I think that I’ve most recently been reading and I’m before I went into engineering before I went into medicine I was actually a history of medicine student.
Saul Marquez: Supercool. I’m a history and very fan myself.
Debbie Teodorescu: Really? that’s fantastic.
Saul Marquez: I love History. Yeah.
Debbie Teodorescu: And so part of the sort of enchantment for me has been to really realize that a lot of the questions and problems that we deal with and leadership and strategizing and such aren’t entirely new. The circumstances in the trappings are new but not entirely so I’ve been especially inspired recently by reading Augustus by John Williams. It’s a book from a few decades back that really looked at that try to delve into how a young man in his teens who had who came from a family of very modest origins who came from the countryside was able to conquer most of the known world despite being a sickly guy at a time when people were valued for their strength and really not having the classic sort of connections that just wouldn’t happen. Having the willingness to be bold and the vision to dream.
Saul Marquez: As powerful. Great recommendation Debbie and folks for all the notes you guys already know this but just as a reminder to get you straight to the show notes for this episode just go to outcomesrocket.health/surgibox and you’re going to find a full transcript along with links to all the resources that Debbie has shared including Augustus the book that she recommended, her company and all the awesome things including a link to her TED talk. You’ll find all of that there. Debbie this has been fun. I’d love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners could reach out or follow you on.
Debbie Teodorescu: Absolutely so well thank you everyone. Remembering that when we’re talking about healthcare whether it’s a surgery or really much of health care, the difference between being good enough and being outstanding is lives and happy holidays together and all sorts of incredibly invaluable, incountible outcomes. So I’m grateful to everybody who is clearly dedicated in the listening audience to trying to improve outcomes and to push the needle from good enough to excellence so you can follow at SurgiBox Inc. On Twitter. Our website is www.surgibox.org. We are a hybrid organization so we run as both a company SurgiBox Inc. as well as project surgibox which focused on advocacy research and and educational aspects of project development. And you can always drop us a line at Hello at surgibox.org. I look forward to hearing from everyone.
Saul Marquez: Outstanding. Well thank you for the invitation. And folks if something in today’s interview resonated with you I’d totally invite you to reach out, collaborate. The best ideas already exist. You just have to reach out and collaborate with those doing them to get things started. So Debbie, big thanks for spending time with us today. We really appreciate it.
Debbie Teodorescu: Thanks so much Saul. Always the time with you flight by so I appreciate it.
Thanks for listening to the outcomes rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.
The above audio transcript of “Achieving a Sterile Field Anywhere with Debbie Lin Teodorescu, Founder at SurgiBox Inc.” was transcribed by the best audio transcription service called Sonix. If you have to convert audio to text in 2019, then you should try Sonix. Transcribing audio files is painful. Sonix makes it fast, easy, and affordable. I love using Sonix to transcribe my audio files.