Pairing Grit with Ingenuity: Shad Alum uses STEAM to help solve healthcare problems
When Joshua Liu entered medical school in the fall of 2009, he thought he was simply following the path he had set for himself years ago. Little did he know, it would be the start of an amazing journey that connected his passion for entrepreneurship with his desire to solve healthcare problems facing the Canadian public.
After finishing his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at York University, Josh started medical school at the University of Toronto. He admits he never “fell in love” with a particular type of medicine and found himself more confused about the direction he wanted to pursue once starting the program. “Eventually, I found myself less interested in a specialty and more excited about solving the broader problems within the healthcare system.”
This curiosity led Josh to do some research for the University Health Network (UHN) where he explored ways that hospitals could prevent patients from being readmitted once they’ve been discharged. This got him thinking about the ways these kinds of healthcare problems could be solved and awakened the entrepreneurial side of himself that had been nurtured during his time at Shad in 2005.
“I started to get the technology startup bug. I had always had a kind of entrepreneurial spirit, always liked building things, and my time at Shad really helped to further cultivate that side of me.”
At the beginning of his third year of medical school, Josh and two friends from the school started a tech venture that did not find traction due to the overlap in expertise between the founders (all being medical) and a general lack of business and technology experience within the group.
But Josh was not ready to give up on his desire to explore healthcare through a tech startup, and so he joined a program called “Next 36” which is a business incubator started between the University of Toronto and industry leaders. The program brings together 36 students scheduled to graduate together and who want to start a tech business. They’re provided with seed capital and mentorship to help the new founders bring their business vision to life.
It was there that Josh met cofounders who brought their engineering chops to compliment his healthcare knowledge in the product design process. Together, they created SeamlessMD, a platform used by hospitals to engage, monitor and stay connected with patients throughout their healthcare journey from beginning to end, ensuring that they receive the right care at the right time; for example, guiding patients pre and post-surgery via a patient’s own smartphone, tablet or computer. Over 40 studies and evaluations performed by hospitals have shown SeamlessMD to reduce hospital readmissions, emergency room visits, mortality and costs.
Josh was excited by the ins and outs of growing a business, feeling as though he could better serve the healthcare system in this capacity. The tech platform has been hugely successful and is used by hospitals and healthcare professionals across Canada and the United States. In 2021, he was named as the Digital Health Executive of the Year by Digital Health Canada.
“We’re the most widely used solution in Ontario for patient engagement and remote patient monitoring, and we’re on our way to being the most widely used solution in the country. We’re deployed in 50% of the provinces and are in talks with the rest of them, so we’re on an exciting growth path and anticipate that will continue, both in Canada and in the U.S. Our goal is to be able to support every major patient journey from birth to death across the whole continuum.”
Josh credits his time at Shad in helping to foster his love of entrepreneurship and his willingness to take a risk and pursue a career path he hadn’t anticipated.
“Shad gave me a taste for the excitement of starting a business. You had to learn about products and draft the financial reports and format a business plan, learn about manufacturing. It was a really cool hands-on experience that gave me a taste of how fun a business startup could be, even for those of us who had always planned to pursue an academic path. I think that it set me up for putting the two together in creating SeamlessMD.”
It was through Shad that Josh met Adam Lorant, someone he considers an important mentor. The two met while both were serving on the Board of Directors for the program. Josh remains grateful for that connection, as Adam has provided him with invaluable business advice over the years and became an early investor in SeamlessMD. “Shad has really been positively intertwined throughout my journey in many ways.”
Josh is optimistic about the potential of SeamlessMD to continue to help solve some of the problems that plague our healthcare system. And he believes that the Shad experience will continue to influence young people to take risks and believe in their ability to solve big problems, just as it did him.
“Shad does an amazing job of pushing people out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to be ok doing big things, like starting a business or even just talking in front of large groups of people. Shad provides a safe space to draw out people’s potential by letting them see what they can do, putting people in those uncomfortable situations and showing them that they are capable of doing what they thought they weren’t.”