For the last 10 years, I have been passionate about optimizing wellness by integrating preventative primary health care and research.
This journey began in an isolated mountain village in the Dominican Republic. A small girl’s grateful smile as I passed her a toothbrush still highlights my memory of that mission trip myself and eight other students undertook to provide hygienic supplies to communities who needed it most. I felt compelled to leave a lasting impact by providing medical care. I made it my mission to take a lifelong passion for preventative medicine and turn it into a career in health care after being exposed to these children lacking basic resources necessary to prevent chronic complications. I say lifelong, because growing up and witnessing the health complications that my mother experienced as a single parent raising two children on welfare ignited the passion I have for improving the quality of care, and critical access to it. I distinctly recall the feeling of walking into free clinics as a nine-year-old, where you would hope the focus would be primary, preventative services and education. By contrast, we were greeted wearily by understandably burnt out providers who did not have enough time in a fifteen minute session to discuss lifestyle modifications, assess baseline physical activity or diet- two crucial modifiable factors that actually prevent and/or reverse the 10 causes of 74% of death in the U.S., not to mention the billions of healthcare dollars associated with them. The lack of empathy and education left me feeling disconcerted, yet passionate to change our current healthcare system. I became driven to provide integrative medical care in order to interrupt the development of similar preventable conditions in the community as a Nurse Practitioner (protocol implementing) and Scientist (protocol shaping).
Fast forward twenty years from that nine year old girl with a big dream. I successfully completed a masters degree as a Nurse Practitioner while dual degree full time for a PhD in psychoneuroimmunology. I juggled my education with working clinically, helping support my mother, patenting an infant feeding innovation from my research, and starting a company (The Natural Nipple) that scaled to a team of seven, gaining significant traction and customer interest in the process.
In July 2018, I became the first student selected as the Principal Investigator for a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to research product-market fit of my invention. In October 2018, I pitched The Natural Nipple at the Florida Blue insurance pitch competition and won the Most Innovative Healthcare Solution. In December 2018 we took an investment valuing the company at $1.75 million, a considerable valuation considering our innovative approach was pre-product, pre-revenue. In May 2019, we won the first Clinical Quickfire Challenge hosted by Johnson & Johnson, securing an investment of $50,000 and lifelong mentorship including access to their innovation arm: J-Labs. In June 2018, we were selected as one of eight companies in Tampa Bay to pitch for Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Tour given our traction in a little over a year- receiving over $220k in grants and investments. In August 2019 we were selected to receive a $100,000 investment from the Brandery – a tech incubator with an acceptance rate lower than Harvard. At this point, I felt incredibly close to burnout and decided I could not be effective given how fractured my focus had become. I chose to drop the PhD program after completing all coursework and preparing my defense with only two semesters left to graduate and left my job as a Forensic Nurse Practitioner to move to Cincinnati and take the risk to focus full time on The Natural Nipple. A few weeks into our time at The Brandery I made the difficult decision to decline a Gener8r investment after determining that the term structure would penalize our existing investors. Which leads me to the present moment where I have decided to leverage my expertise to offer Clinical Microbiome Consulting while progressing the development of the first prototype of a natural nipple designed to provide families with greater options when it comes to infant health. I am grateful to have this opportunity to continue supporting the health and well beings of individual clients while moving The Natural Nipple forward in order to impact the lives of young children around the world. The combination of the two reinforces each individually and always helps me to continue to learn, grow and contribute in a way that aligns with my values, and for which I am deeply grateful.
The inception of The Natural Nipple began with the nurturing support of an incredible teacher. Her passion and intelligence led me to become fascinated by the power of breastmilk to impact human lives, from mother to baby, encompassing the entire family unit. Human milk is the most preventative, dynamic biological substance that has enabled us to evolve on this planet. Not only is breastmilk the first free life vaccine, to set the next generation on the path for lifelong health- breastmilk is the most effective way to optimize the signature gut microbiome during the critical first three years of life. While studying the gut microbiome (the 100 trillion bacteria that influence the way we eat, think, and function on a molecular level) as a PhD student at the University of South Florida, I discovered that babies that weren’t getting mother’s milk were suffering fatal complications. My research identified how prolonging breastfeeding and skin to skin contact enables breastmilk to continually act in establishing immunity, enabling protective neurological development and genetic optimization through microbiome establishment, thus preventing the long-term detrimental effects of gut bacterial dysbiosis.
I found the one thing we can control as clinicians to prevent dysbiosis related deaths is increase the volume of breastmilk these babies get, and in 2018, The National Science Foundation provided me an award to identify what was preventing that in the hospitals and for moms after discharge. After over 300 interviews of moms, neonatologists, nurses, hospital supply managers, and other key stakeholders, the findings shocked me. As a result, I invented The FIRST BOTTLE NIPPLE MODELED AFTER real MOM’S nipple shapes and flow rates designed to PROMOTE PROLONGED BREASTFEEDING to fill the gap in industry causing the problem. I remember walking into a lactation class with babies screaming, confused dads, and my handheld 3d scanner asking moms if I could scan their breasts. It was their desperate response “yes, please if it will help design a product that will eliminate these latching problems” that motivates me to overcome entrepreneurial barriers everyday. I never thought after being 10 years in and a semester away from ‘Dr. Wright’ I would consider putting graduating on hold to be a dedicated founder. Realizing how powerful the health-tech, bio-tech, fem-tech, and pharma companies are has shifted my paradigm from frustration with the state of care- to a solution oriented hypothesis: be a better industry player. I am inspired to drive marketing budgets to innovations that focus on empowering the population to optimize their wellness with preventative tools and services while providing the data to help fund companies founded by the individuals who have identified gaps in industry and generated a business model that addresses their target market’s specific pain points.
This journey from clinician to researcher and now entrepreneur combines the passion I have for preventative health care and evidence based practice to generate efficacious mind-body research for companies looking to evaluate a product/program’s impact on the gut microbiome + improvement of health outcomes.