Interview with Entrepreneur Physicians and Founders of Global Ultrasound Institute
Today I sat and had a chat with Kevin Bergman and Mena Ramos of the Global Ultrasound Institute that they opened up together to deliver quality education all around the world. They enthusiastically express their beliefs on how they think point-of-care ultrasound should be made common worldwide, which is practically why they launched the educational institute in question two and a half years ago.
One of the biggest challenges they have come across so far is the stigma attached to ultrasound technology. Ultrasound automatically gets associated with radiology but as Mena and Kevin both are quick to point out, there is so much more to it than it may seem on the surface. Let’s delve deeper into the discussion to clarify these misconceptions.
A Little Bit of Housekeeping
Firstly, I should preface the conversation by talking about the entrepreneurs’ relevant experience within the field to establish their respective competencies. Mena and Kevin are both family physicians working at Contra Costa Regional Center for more than a decade now, where they gained a lot of the knowledge and awareness on the issue that they now preach to the masses. So, it is sufficient to say that both of them are well-versed with this subject matter and are qualified enough to teach it worldwide.
The main purpose of founding the Global Ultrasound Institute is to make a bigger and more positive impact in healthcare. Mena mentioned that most of the time, ultrasound machinery is kept locked away where there are limited resources when it can actually save lives. Similarly, Kevin voiced his excitement about how we have not even properly discovered what ultrasound can do and that we can really start evolving the technology faster if more resources were spent on developing and expanding the tech and its various use-cases.
The Journey of the Global Ultrasound Institute
We should also note the financial aspects of their business, as this is what we hope you visit Stocks 4 Docs for. I initially wanted to inquire about the vision of the Global Ultrasound Institute and the reason they started this global initiative. After all, I am a strong proponent in only investing your time, energy, and resources into companies whose vision aligns with yours. They mention that it was not merely an idea that came to them out of the blue but rather a nagging thought that they always had at the back of their minds.
As such, one day when they discussed the idea out loud to each other, it gave them the push to go ahead and launch the business. They had always been physicians so being entrepreneurs was daunting at first. However, as Mena further mentions, physicians are usually really adaptive and can learn new things at a fast pace. She also stated that it would have been quite difficult if their only incentive was monetary rewards, but rather it was their passion for spreading the knowledge necessary for development that motivated them to work hard and bring this idea to fruition.
Kevin and Mena, luckily in this regard, had previous experience training others through courses that best utilized their expertise. They also had the right connections to raise the capital that they required to bootstrap their project. Thankfully, they did reap the rewards of their labor and are now in the process of quitting their day jobs to focus full-time on this business prospect, which was positively received by the market and attracted the market-fit that they had desired.
Kevin also shared that their life partners have been very supportive of them throughout this arduous journey as they dealt with the more mundane issues in life, from mortgage payments to something as difficult as raising daughters. Mena shares a similar experience, emphasizing the different ways that they chose to be iterative in the process of scaling their business instead of an immediate burst, which most start-ups tend to do. They spent the extra time to iron out details where they could, and gather important data and feedback about their product to slowly improve it, rather than companies that just decide to blow things out of the water at the very first sign of success.
Transitioning from Education to Entrepreneurship
One can certainly tell that there was a lot of effort and care that went into the development of this project. The education sector is a very extensive field where people come from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels with completely different demands from their individual segments.
To ensure that the business stayed true to their grassroots intention of educating the masses about the benefits of ultrasound technology, the entrepreneur physicians combined their determination to succeed with adequate planning which means that their product had something to offer to everyone in their niche, while the company still grows at a pace that they can manage.
This warranted a very specific type of individual balance between the uncertainty that is inevitable in business and the excitement of seeing a company that you gave birth to, slowly blossom and pay you back for the labor you put into it. It also comes from a place of noticing the gaps within traditional education and knowing that there is no better way to learn other than experience.
This is especially remarkable when considering that the founders were people who had spent tens of thousands of dollars in education, and to traverse against all odds while being in such a deep net is commendable. After all, the only reason we spend this much money on educational institutions is to turn that time, money, and energy into a viable career with financial prospects later in life. They put everything on the line for this venture.
The Bottom Line
The Global Ultrasound Institute is a very interesting case study of building a business from the ground up and overcoming the various challenges it poses, while also creating the potential for future technologies in handheld ultrasound scanning to remarkable degrees of accuracy. This interview was very insightful and tells us loads about what the field of ultrasound in medicine holds for the future, and how young entrepreneurs can shake things up with their disruptive business ideas.
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Mena Ramos, Co-Founder of the Global Ultrasound Institute (GUSI)
Dr. Mena Ramos is co-founder of Global Ultrasound Institute (GUSI) and has taught point of care ultrasound to attending and resident physicians since finishing her residency in family medicine at the UCSF Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency in 2015. As a UCSF Contra Costa Global Health fellow, she taught POCUS for family medicine faculty in Malawi and developed cardiac ultrasound curriculum for clinical officers. She is currently working as an attending physician at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center emergency department.
As a POCUS advocate for family physicians and primary healthcare providers, Dr. Ramos co-wrote the POCUS guidelines for the American Association of Family Practice and was founding secretary of the AAFP POCUS Member Interest Group. She has taught hundreds of residents and physicians at multiple national conferences including AIUM, ACP, AAFP, WIM and STFM. Dr. Ramos’ passion for teaching and POCUS have come together to create a POCUS experience that is engaging and accessible for providers around the world.
Kevin Bergman, Co-Founder of the Global Ultrasound Institute (GUSI)
Dr. Kevin Bergman is Co-Director of the Ultrasound and Global Health programs at the UCSF Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency, Associate Clinical Professor of the UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine, and he is an attending physician at the emergency department at the Contra Costa county hospital.
Dr. Bergman is a family physician and completed fellowships in emergency medicine and point-of-care ultrasound. He is passionate about teaching ultrasound to the next generation of physicians and has taught ultrasound to hundreds of residents and attending physicians around the world. He is on the Board of Directors of the Society of Ultrasound in Medical Education, is an official consultant to the International Consensus Conference on Ultrasound in Medical Education, was the founding Vice-Chair of the American Association of Family Practice (AAFP) Ultrasound Member Interest Group, and co-wrote the POCUS guidelines for the AAFP.
He won teaching awards both as a fellow and as an attending, and has taught ultrasound at WINFOCUS, AIUM/SUSME, AAFP, EM Essentials, and Society for Teachers in Family Medicine national meetings. He also co-founded World Altering Medicine, a non-profit organization that provides medical and surgical care to rural patients in Malawi, where he has returned annually since his first visit in 2002.