Grit is everything
In this podcast we interview Dr. Nikhil Shah, the CEO and Co-Founder of Nephrodite, Inc., an early-stage start up medical device company focused on developing an implantable continuous functioning dialysis device.
The kidneys filter and remove toxins from the blood by elimination of water. End stage renal disease affects about 800,000 people in the US. Traditional dialysis costs the US Medicare system about $34B. It is about 7% of the total Medicare budget for less than 1% of the total Medicare population. The founders of Nephrodite aim to save the healthcare system 30% per patient with a portable, wearable dialysis device that is the subject of this article.
Kidney patients and dialysis
Many kidney disease patients say that they would trade 20-30 years on dialysis for one year in which they were free.
Free of what?
The crushing torture that dialysis treatment is for most patients.
The kidneys work continually, but dialysis treatment is intermittent. This is a summary of what renal disease patients go through during dialysis:
They have to sit in a chair for 3-4 hours
They have to get to a center
The toxins build up in the blood before the procedure
After treatment is done they feel like they have run a marathon
The graft itself can be painful
From the day patients go on dialysis, their five year mortality is still over 50%
The majority of renal patients can’t get a transplant
The concept behind Nephrodite
There are two types of dialysis, one through the abdomen (peritoneal) and one through the blood system (hemodialysis). They wanted to take the best elements of hemodialysis, and the best parts of peritoneal dialysis, which is portable and gets them out of a center.
There is a device the size of a child’s fist that is surgically implanted in the patient’s pelvis. The device would be surgically implanted. Blood would flow through the device, allowing it to be filtered. Tubing would come out of the lower abdomen that would connect to patients through a wearable (backpack or vest) that would allow for removal of the water from the body. The device would stay in the patient’s body for about a year.
Inspirational quotes for entrepreneurs
The following quotes from Dr. Shah speak to his learnings in his entrepreneurial journey.
“When you’re in the middle of an operation and things aren’t going your way, there’s no ‘reset.’ You’re in it; you’re in the thick of it. And that patient’s outcome, that patient’s life, is depending on you…You have to learn not only to manage your stress but you also have to know that you’re going to get through it.”
“I approach this with utter and total humility in the sense that it’s not innate. While I feel that I may have accomplished it in some regards I am constantly learning.”
27:21 “I really was sensitive, perhaps because of my own personal experiences in healthcare myself as a patient, to not talk over my patients but also to not be patronizing towards them. Just like I don’t know their space, they don’t know the medical space. And it was really important for me that they truly understood what they were going through if I were going to do an operation on them.”
“I learned a ton of humility, I’ll tell you that. And to be fair, surgeons might not have a lot of that.”
“I always knew that communication was king, that is was really important. I have learned to really hone my communication skills. But I would say two things. Number one, I knew grit going through surgical training in the day that I went through it. You didn’t have grit you didn’t make it through. This was grit at a different level. I can’t emphasize grit more. It was everything.
The other thing I’ve learned a lot on the communication side is becoming a better listener. I now tends to be the one who listens more in the room. I’ll speak when I have something that’s very useful.”
We hope you’ll listen for yourself – the podcast video is embedded above.
Dr. Nikhil L. Shah
Dr. Nikhil L. Shah serves as the CEO and Co-Founder of Nephrodite, Inc., an early-stage start up medical device company focused on developing an implantable continuous functioning dialysis device. He has additionally served in highly visible Executive Leadership roles at a variety of health systems overseeing the quality, safety and financial success based on the development of robust analytics and metric-based platforms. Dr. Shah has performed thousands of minimal access and robotic procedures with specific expertise in Genitourinary Oncology and urinary tract reconstruction. In addition, his interest and expertise in digital Surgery, intelligence, advanced-integrated imaging as well as automation as they apply to the patient-care continuum define his passion as a progressive Physician Leader. In addition, Dr. Shah serves as the President and Co-Founder of Global Medical & Surgical Robotics (GMSR), a collection of Surgeon experts dedicated to comprehensive training of Surgeons in techniques of minimally invasive, minimal access and digital surgery around the world. He travels extensively educating, communicating and facilitating the benefits of innovative, efficient and intelligent skills to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for patients. Dr. Shah completed his undergraduate training at the University of Michigan and Medical School at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. In medical school, Dr, Shah received a highly coveted research award funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. His training in General Surgery was at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and followed with subspecialty training in Robotics, Laparoscopy and Urological Oncology at the Vattikuti Urology Institute at Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit. During residency, Dr. Shah additionally completed a National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Urologist-Scientist Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Concurrently to his time in the laboratory, he completed a Master’s degree in Health Management & Policy at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and the Ross School of Business. Dr. Shah is the recipient of numerous awards and has authored many peer-reviewed publications. He holds an adjunct Associate Professorship at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition, Dr. Shah serves as an active advisor to the medical technology industry and the financial sector involved with innovative technology, medical devices, simulation and new surgical training applications.
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