2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Ultra EM, University of Virginia (Darden)

Ultra EM

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Industry: Medical Education

Founding Student Name(s): Dr. C. Malcolm Roberson (MBA ’21) (With David Agumya, Carson Lunsford and Dr. Ramey Elsarrag)

Brief Description of Solution: Ultra EM is a dynamic ultrasound simulator that teaches medical students to accurately capture and interpret FAST exams in a fun, game-like way. The FAST exam is a standard bedside ultrasound exam in which physicians screen blunt trauma patients for blood or abnormalities in the abdomen, pelvis, and chest. After introducing a case, users are given the opportunity to view multiple ultrasound images before making a clinical decision based on their interpretation of the images in combination with the patient’s clinical status. Our simulator makes training and practicing of these ultrasound exams fun and engaging, testing users’ ability to acquire and interpret ultrasound images, as well as make appropriate medical decisions.

Funding Dollars: $11,000 to date

What led you to launch this venture? Like many other medical students, my clinical experiences were significantly altered by the onset of the pandemic, and I recognized that there were numerous deficiencies in the currently-available options for ultrasound education. As a group of avid gamers, we were able to connect the dots and come up with an idea for an innovative and effective solution to this problem.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? It was being awarded grant funding, participating in UVA’s VPx2  incubator program, forming our initial partnerships with medical schools at UVA and Virginia Commonwealth University, and winning the Entrepreneurship Cup’s concept round, which provided us with the initial funding to build our MVP.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I was able to build a foundation as an entrepreneur and creator, understand my target audience, and build a platform that would fit the needs of my ideal users. I’ve also learned about creating effective stories that take in the journeys of our potential users and help solve problems they face in efficient and useful ways.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? I was inspired by Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb and Dr. Taison Bell at UVA, as well as Dr. Tom Fadial at the University of Texas, amongst others. Their outstanding work as physician-entrepreneurs, and the impact that they’ve been able to have through their own ventures, showed me that I could create and sustain something special with the right team around me.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? In Effectual Entrepreneurship with Professor Saras Sarasvathy, I learned about the key elements of effectual entrepreneurship, and we have used them since our inception. From utilizing the bird in hand principle to take advantage of the contacts and resources we have available, to learning how to make the most out of any situation, effectuation has been a vital tool for operating efficiently.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Alex Cowan and Jason Brewster (director of venture programs at Darden’s Batten Institute) have made significant contributions to our venture’s founding and growth. Alex helped immensely with the design and development of our software from its earliest stages. Jason has been a powerful advocate and mentor, connecting us with entrepreneurs and mentors throughout the country, as well as inspiring new ideas and ways for us to impact medical education through our platform.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term goal with Ultra EM is to build a comprehensive library of ultrasound cases in a variety of clinical scenarios, helping train people around the world in ultrasound image capturing, interpretation, and medical decision-making. We would like to partner with medical schools and residency programs in the US and internationally to guide this aspect of their education and prepare them for a future in clinical practice. We also want to inspire students of color to pursue medical education and entrepreneurship through our actions and efforts.


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