Class of 2022: Career Pivot Leads Entrepreneur to Co-Found Startup Offering Solutions to Canada’s Physician Shortage | New
While many saw the COVID-19 pandemic as an obstacle to their careers, Adrian Mitchell, MDSA’22, saw it as an opportunity to change his own. In the spring of 2020, Mitchell had recently left a technical job in Vancouver where he commuted two days a week. He had just started conversations about a new job in Calgary when the pandemic hit. Mitchell stayed home to care for his three children while his wife, a doctor, fought on the front lines of COVID.
“I thought, ‘Nobody’s hiring right now, so maybe I’ll start my own business,'” Mitchell said.
To do this, however, he needed to get back to his roots of coding and technical work, so he made the decision to go back to school and take the professional master’s program in data science and analytics at the faculty. of Science from UCalgary.
He set his sights on the healthcare industry and quickly discovered that his expertise was needed to solve the critical problem of physician burnout.
Why did you choose to specialize in health data science and biostatistics within the MDSA program?
I have a background in geophysics and I spent the first part of my career in energy. I also spent time in technology, but even when I was there I was working with resource-based clients. However, my wife is a doctor, most of my best friends are doctors, and it’s really diverse.
I didn’t want to be tied to resource economics anymore, I wanted to be part of health economics. I reviewed a number of data science programs, but chose UCalgary specifically for health data science.
During your studies, did you also co-found a company?
Yeah, so Jordan [Vollrath] and Max [Kerz] are also co-founders, they started the company in May 2020. Part of the masters program involves an internship, so I had started networking looking for an internship in a health-based technology company. Max, the CTO, basically has a PhD in the same field as my Masters, so I was introduced to him through my network.
He was impressed that I was doing health data science and had a business background [Mitchell also has an MBA], that’s what they were looking for. They gave me the job offer over the phone almost immediately. However, I was looking for an internship, not yet to co-found a company, so we made a deal where I consulted for four months during my course, then did my internship with several health data components of the company, and now I’m in it full-time as co-founder and COO.
What is this company and what does it do?
The company is called Cherry Health and we focus on healthcare staffing. Physician burnout is a big problem, and one of the causes of that burnout is the shortage of temporary, or locum, doctors who can fill in for doctors when they want to take vacations.
We have created an app that, for free, can connect locums to clinics. It’s almost like a dating app or a rental app for doctors and clinics. Doctors can indicate the days they are available to come temporarily and are matched with clinics that are looking for doctors on those days.
This is dear to me, as my wife is a doctor who has struggled to find locums, and she also recently started using the app. If we can help find coverage for doctors to take vacations, it will go a long way to reducing their burnout.
What has been the impact of the business so far?
It’s going very well so far. Last year, we received a grant from the Canadian Medical Association in the Physician Health and Wellness category. We have over 2,000 physician users today. The feedback has been great, and we’ve got a lot of interest across the country.
Has UCalgary supported you in balancing tuition and consultation?
Yes, classes take place in the evening, so many people can work during the program. I was able to ask my teachers questions that were relevant to the work. The program co-director, Leanne Wu, has been a great resource to me. She was my supervisor for my internship project and we discussed working on other projects in the future. They’ve been very supportive, and I think what they want to see is students joining startups or start-ups and contributing to the tech ecosystem here in Calgary.
So it’s safe to say that Cherry Health is where your next career step is?
Oh yes, we want to build a great business in Calgary. I’m one of the co-founders, and we’re trying to build a sustainable Calgary-based health tech company.