He talks about the inspiration behind his company, HexBR, why he chose the M&T Program, and what he hopes to see himself doing post-graduation.
Why did you choose the M&T Program?
I wanted to build things to help people and to do that I knew I needed to do two things. The first, is I need to learn how to develop solutions using science and technology, and how to use scientific reasoning to build a functioning prototype. Then, to really help people, I need to understand the business strategy behind making an idea or prototype a reality. As a result, I knew I needed to find a place that had this balance between business and technology, and the M&T Program is the best one there is.
You created an app to help arthritis patients after attending a class on issues that impact healthcare around the world. Can you talk about what inspired you to do this?
I took an introductory class for bioengineers, and we had an assignment to build a device to help people with a specific disease state. I decided to pursue a chronic disease and researched how these types of diseases impact people and healthcare systems. In the process, I learned which ones were most expensive to the U.S. healthcare system. Diabetes is the most expensive, followed by heart disease and arthritis. When I saw arthritis at the top of the list, it seemed counterintuitive to me. Arthritis is very common. In fact, my aunt has arthritis in her knee. Why is this such a health problem in the U.S., costing upwards of $70 billion per year? I studied it a bit more and learned how complicated arthritis is for patients as it’s a chronic disease that has no cure and joint pain only increases over time. Someone who doesn’t have access to physical therapy – which is the main treatment for it – must endure pain for the rest of their lives, and ultimately, will experience a loss in mobility due to that pain.
I did my assignment for the class, but I kept thinking about arthritis patients and I continued to do more research. I learned that arthritis is not just a disease with heavy impacts in the U.S. – every single country has a problem with arthritis. Developing countries, like Brazil, where I’m from, really struggle with it because many people don’t have access to any type of treatment. In Brazil, it affects more than 2 million people, and it disproportionately impacts low-income communities.
Because the main treatment for arthritis is physical therapy, many patients don’t keep up with it as they don’t have the money to continue to pay for it over the long term. Additionally, people who are in pain don’t want to spend time waiting at their local health centers for treatment. So, I had this idea for HexBR, which is a digital platform that makes arthritis physical therapy free and accessible to all, and gathered some friends to help me with it. We sourced people who understood the ins and outs of programming, people to help with research, and doctors, physical therapists, and orthopedic doctors in Brazil to help provide guidance onto the treatment plans.
Arthritis patients can access HexBR from their computers, tablets, or phones. All they have to do is fill out a form and provide details on their arthritis type and pain level, and the software generates a customized physical therapy plan that is sent to them via email or WhatsApp.
The platform is easy to use and has been well-received. We released it in July quickly grew to 150 patients. Now 3 months later we have 400 patients across eight countries – and our goal is to get to 1,000 patients by the end of the year.
You were one of 16 students to be given the Intern Fellowship Award in 2022. Can you talk about the impact that had on you?
Last summer, I wanted to do something that was not investment banking or consulting – something different. It was my freshman summer and I wanted to do something that was important to me and in line with my passions. I grew up in Brazil in a low-income community and as a result, grew close to social issues because they directly impacted people like me. I learned of an opportunity to work for a Brazilian NGO that does the incredible work of rebuilding housing, providing education, healthcare sanitization, dignity to people living in these types of places. They just opened a New York office to work with their donors and partners here. I met them in November of last year and they offered me this position. The position was development-based and building projects to make improvements to people in the town where I’m from in Brazil. I wasn’t sure how I was going to accept the internship and live in New York, and the M&T Board helped me be able to take this incredible opportunity. I was able to go to New York to take this position and work with social impact people and have the most incredible experience. I also was able to keep my work going with HexBR, so I was working with low-income communities in Brazil through work and I was impacting low-income communities through Hex at the same time.
This opportunity taught me how to do the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. If I want to work with this specific type of community, from a U.S. perspective, I was working at the intersection of Wall Street and NYC donors, and where I come from in Brazil. So, I want to continue to learn how I can translate innovation and projects that are super high-tech and innovative here in the U.S. and help people back home.
Additionally, my role this summer provided me with the opportunity to help Hex reach new places. I was able to talk to NGOs in Brazil, working with medical expeditions to help people in the Amazon Rainforest. Through those connections, we were able to bring Hex services to 30 arthritis patients living in the Amazon Rainforest. These are the things I want to continue to build upon.
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
I see myself working to build a company on my own. Maybe that’s with Hex, maybe it’s something else within the healthcare sector. When I completed my application, I said I was coming here to learn how to use technology to solve healthcare inequality issues in developing countries and I still feel that’s what I want to be doing. The M&T Program really fosters this type of idea, and that’s the magic of having students be at the intersection of engineering and business. It’s the vibe of the program. Everyone is doing something and that inspires you to really do your own thing – and you’re learning the building blocks to do things and make them happen in the real world. None of what I have achieved thus far would be possible without the M&T Program and it’s awesome that I have the opportunity to be part of this school.