MEM Program Led Tam to Start Non-Profit Aimed at Cervical Cancer's Prevention

October 3, 2007 | ImaGyn Experience written by Theoderick Tam, Master's of Engineering Management Class of 2007

Theo Tam with imaGyn team

Imagine if you had a year to do whatever you wanted. What would you do? Well, I decided to spend my year in Durham, North Carolina, and I discovered adventure here.

My name is Theo Tam and I am an engineer from California. Before beginning the Master of Engineering Management program at Pratt, I designed parts for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company as a mechanical engineer. I enjoyed life as a rocket scientist, but I quickly realized that an advanced degree would help me get the education and recognition that I would need to pursue my career goals. Looking back at the profile I submitted to the program last year, my goals were to "design medical devices for developing countries, and perhaps start a company in the process."

It happened.

This year, my project team designed a cervical cancer prevention device and we won the $100,000 CUREs Business Plan Competition to start our own non‐profit company, ImaGyn. Through the process, I’ve met with corporate executives, traveled to Haiti with a leading women’s health specialist, pitched to angel investors and venture capitalists, directed an MBA student practicum, and we’ve been featured in major publications including NPR and Business Week.

This success was only possible through the opportunities and resources from MEM. The project started with the New Social Ventures Fellowship. This organization connected us with leading business thinkers in the community, including the original inventor of our medical device, Dr. David Walmer, and we met our business mentors, Brent Ward and Abhi Gupta, during the first networking seminar. With the support of these three mentors, the medical, academic and business community welcomed us in and provided resources and insight at every step of the way.

I also found community through this experience. My closest friendships here were forged through countless sleepless nights debating business strategy, prototyping in the lab, and preparing for meetings and presentations. We absorbed our course material in real‐time. By day we studied marketing strategy and project management and by night we applied it.

Brent and Abhi redefined my understanding of mentorship. At times, I would get three calls a day from them with ideas, advice and encouragement. After taking me through rounds, surgery and other exams in Haiti, Dr. Walmer would sit down and share his heart about the thing that matters most to him— relationships. This drives his passion to love God, his family and the Haitian people. These friends have challenged my thinking both professionally and personally, and they have fundamentally influenced my life perspective.

I hope that my story has been an encouragement to you. I am fortunate to have had these opportunities, but they are not unique to me. The program here opens the same doors to all of its students. If you come with a vision and you are willing to execute, there is a lot in store for you here!