“56% of the planet's population has internet access. As technological advancements spur innovation, every facet of our world—including healthcare—is affected. I am passionate about participating in the development of life-changing technology.” - Ifigeneia Stathaki
Ifigeneia Stathaki was born and raised in Greece. She came to West Rochester to study biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester, where her interest in startups developed into a passion. After graduating, Ifigeneia joined Casana as an R&D Clinical Engineer, to assist with the clinical research necessary to develop The Heart Seat.
What was your experience immigrating to America?
I suppose my expectations were a little different from reality. Going to the US seemed like a dream, but the process of migrating to the States was more complex than I originally anticipated. There are a lot of difficulties that come with such a big change. It wasn’t as streamlined a process as you might think or hope. There are the more obvious challenges, such as learning a different language, and there are the more nuanced differences, such as adapting to a different sense of unity and community. Even so, going to college here in the US exceeded my expectations. It was amazing to experience the infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities that are available to students here.
From college to Casana, what did that transition look like?
I realized in my third year of college that I was interested in working for a startup company. I joined a startup competition with some engineering classmates and fell in love with the idea of startups. The idea that everybody in a company could be so passionate and work towards a common goal, despite long hours, was inspiring. That's why I ended up working for Casana. The close-knit culture and fast-paced environment were exactly what I was looking for. I joined Casana during my senior year of college as a Lab Assistant and it's been an amazing experience. I feel like I've learned more in these eleven months at Casana than I did in some of my classes in college, which is great!
Studying biomedical engineering, I really wanted to work with research subjects and patients, however, I didn't want to pursue a Ph.D. yet. Casana was the perfect balance. Right now, I work a lot with external partners to launch new studies in different clinics around the United States. It has been super exciting getting to work with and learn from such amazing people all over the states.
Beyond being a startup, what was it about Casana that piqued your interest?
So first of all, fun fact: I started off as a research subject for Casana! My friend Abdullah worked at Casana, and he told me to come try Casana’s recently opened SIT lab. As a subject, the study team walked me through what the Heart Seat does, and I could not stop thinking about how amazing it was!
At that time, my grandma was going through a lot of cardiac issues. Although she’s more stable now, at the time it was a new development for us, and she was anxious about her health. So what she would do was take her blood pressure at least—not exaggerating—nine to twelve times a day to make sure that her blood pressure was stable. And that was not prompted by her doctor, it was driven by her own anxiety. She would use her blood pressure cuff and proceed to call me approximately nine to twelve times a day, to let me know what her blood pressure was. The time difference made that very difficult—Greece is seven hours ahead of Rochester!
It was a tough situation for me. In her head, she thought that I knew how to respond and that I was the appropriate person to talk to because I studied biomedical engineering, but in reality, I am not, and I'm not an expert. It’s not like I could direct her to talk to her doctor nine to twelve times a day, not to mention that I wasn't sure if the numbers that she was relaying were reliable or accurate. It can be difficult to properly use a blood pressure cuff on yourself, especially for the elderly.
It was at that time that I was introduced to The Heart Seat. I thought that it was an incredible solution that could allow me to be able to monitor my grandma and alleviate some of her anxiety. It would be a fantastic monitoring tool not just for me but for the rest of my family as well. We could share the responsibility of monitoring her health with her doctor, and that could make all the difference.
What are you the most excited about for the future of Casana?
As we go through the day-to-day at work, we don't realize the big picture of what we are seeing. When you introduce a revolutionary product into the market, you don't realize how revolutionary it can be until it's actually out there. It’s only once people start using it and it gets incorporated into households that you see the massive changes. Although I believe that is where Casana and The Heart Seat are heading, right now we are focused on what sometimes feels like the little things, such as establishing ourselves publically, collecting clinical data, receiving FDA clearance, and simply taking it one step at a time. It's hard to envision what Casana can be seven years from now, for example. When thinking about the future and about how many people The Heart Seat can help, it feels monumental, even in terms of changing the field of medicine altogether.
I believe that this is going to be a product that is incorporated into people's lives, whether they're young and healthy or older and struggling with their health. The point of technology should be to make you feel safe, and I think that's why The Heart Seat is going to be such a prevalent product. Casana is going to continue to grow through the development of new patents and products, as we bring in new people with great mindsets to help us solve complex problems with simple solutions.
For those interested in Casana and The Heart Seat, how can they get involved?
There are a lot of opportunities at Casana right now. Casana is growing, and at the end of the day, we are a small company of people that really care. We are looking for people that have great ideas and a positive attitude. Even if there doesn't seem to be an opportunity that fits, I would urge those who are passionate about our mission and vision to reach out with their ideas, because we have people that want to listen.
Casana is excited to hear from those with a passion for what we do. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions or for more opportunities to get involved.