Ting Shih, ‘Saving People’ through Innovative ClickMedix
Wouldn’t you like to meet ClickMedix founder and CEO Ting Shih, one of the three finalists in North America for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards?
Cartier will announce the results in France in October. CEO Shih is appreciative and excited, to be sure. But this young Massachusetts Institute of Techology (MIT) graduate–who has developed a successful company from an amazing class project–won’t be sitting by the phone for the news. Already, her eyes are on expanding her company in the years ahead.
Count on it, too. Consider: From three medical schools in the US in November 2010, she now has global reach. ClickMedix is in the US, Peru, Uganda, Guatemala, Taiwan, India, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic.
ClickMedix matches the right doctors with specific patient symptoms via the mobile phone. “It works, even with patchy connections,” CEO Shih said.
Telemedicine enables doctors to work together to help a patient by eliminating distance and wait times, and also language gaps, in today’s health care delivery in the US and across the globe.
CEO Shih looks ahead to working more on HIV and cervical cancer cases. She cited 96 successful cervical cancer surgeries in Botswana. “When I worked on a class project with my classmates, we focused on skin allergies,” she said. “I was amazed when doctors started calling to ask, ‘What about cancer? What about surgeries?’” Indeed, the sky is the limit in helping the healthcare field save lives across the world.
ClickMedix (www.clickmedix.com) also links medical students, nurses and other health care workers with medical experts who teach others to build medical skills capacity. It often helps medical schools train more doctors in the US and internationally.
CEO Shih laughed when asked about her sleeping schedule, given the different time zones. “I take naps,” she said over the phone, “and yeah, I drink lots of coffee.”
When Ms. Shih, the family’s youngest (she has an older brother), told her parents, Hung and Linda Shih, that she was starting her company, they said, “You’re going to save a lot of people.”
Ms. Shih recalled: “My mom is my inspiration. She, alone, immigrated us from Taiwan to the US when I was 10 years old. She left her executive job in Taiwan and worked in restaurants to support us. Fortunately, she had an opportunity to learn about mortgage and started working for Fortune Mortgage in Rockville, Maryland. She is now a self-made millionaire, living the American dream.”
She herself has achieved the American Dream, and at a young age. “I am living my dream,” she said in email and telephone interviews. “I’m helping others around the world live healthier so that they can achieve their dreams.”
Her innovative and open-minded outlook is likewise evident in her personal life. She is fond of adventure traveling. “Most of my travels involve hikes with ropes, or jumping off of cliffs into pools of water, and tasting unique local flavors, including fried scorpions,” she said. She likes fried food. “Anything fried tastes great–I exercise to get ride of the cholesterol,” she said, laughing.
Asked what traits make the ClickMedix CEO successful, Allison Schwartz, Director of Grameen Health and Research, wrote in an email: “I knew from the very first meeting with Ting that she was a unique entrepreneur. She had created a program designed to leverage pioneering technology to improve the health of underserved communities across the globe.”
“She has an international perspective that allows her to approach complex health problems for women in the United States, Africa and Asia,” she said. “Ting wasted no time in creating a mobile health platform that could significantly improve the health of Grameen America members. She immediately understood the circumstances of Grameen America members. She worked closely with the Grameen team to develop the best strategy for carrying out our objectives.”
She added: “Grameen America members are nearly invisible to most. They are mostly immigrant women who are all living below the poverty line in New York City. While many individuals are overwhelmed or find it impossible to improve the health of this population, Ting worked tirelessly to devise the best strategies for connecting them to affordable high quality care.”
“Ting is not only fearless, but also a visionary,” she noted. “Ting is a creative thinker, advocate and brilliant entrepreneur who is always thinking of ways to improve health infrastructure and improve the health of those most vulnerable.”
“ClickMedix will be a crucial part of our program that will allow easy access to data and improve the connectivity of our health initiatives,” Director Schwartz concluded. “Ting has not only supplied us with a wonderful product, but she also worked hard to make sure it was the right product for our organization. Her personality is what makes her company and product unique. Grameen will always be grateful for her insight and mobile health platform that will substantially enhance the effectiveness of our organization.”
Ryan Carag, a close friend, praised her tenacity and positive demeanor. He said, “She has been working on ClickMedix since 2008 and has seen more than her fair share of the challenges, complexities and even disappointments that come with building a new business.”
“Through all of these difficulties, she never lost sight of her vision, and always maintained a positive attitude which permeates to all those around her, including people within and beyond her organization,” he pointed out.
He added: “Her success is indicative of her drive and tenacity to achieve her vision. But it is the positive demeanor she always exudes that have made the journey enjoyable for all those associated with her business--through all the challenges and ultimately, to success.”
Q & A
In a Question and Answer format, CEO Shih talked about how she started her company.
What difficulties did you experience at first? How did you solve them?
The first company I started was Click Diagnostics, while I was a graduate student at MIT. The company won MIT’s 100K business plan competition in the development track, USAID 2.0 Challenge, and World Health Care Congress Best Telemedicine award.
After piloting in more than 10 countries, I realized the telemedicine system could not scale to serve more patients. I left the original team, and started rebuilding a new telemedicine platform that could scale to serve more than 1 billion patients across different countries, in their own language.
Starting over and rebuilding a new brand was the most difficult. I recruited a CEO-mentor to teach me how to run a company, how to sell, how to create a brand.
I also recruited a CTO to architect the desired health platform. To date, ClickMedix not only provides health care by connecting patients to doctors. It also delivers medical education materials and allows users to tele-consult with medical experts to acquire new medical knowledge and skills.
What other names did you consider for your company? ClickMedix means “connect” to medical experts–the vision that whenever someone is sick, the doctor should only be just a Click away. ClickMedix is designed to identify the right doctors matching specific patient symptoms, and it allows doctors to work together to help a patient and eliminate unnecessary travels and wait times within today’s health care.
What was your starting capital? How did you raise it? The company was self-funded from my own savings and from initial revenues.
Who are the other top people in your company, their names and background? How many employees do you have? We have a Chief Technological Officer (CTO) Jake Morrison, and Information Technology (IT) people.