Huskies Helping Huskies: Alumni Give Students a Leg Up in Start-Up Venture

photo of scholarship recipient Elizabeth Pouya '17
Elizabeth Pouya ’17 (Photo/Nathan Oldham)
Elizabeth Pouya ’17 hasn’t yet graduated, but she’s already launched a start-up—thanks to an alumni-driven UConn program designed to foster student entrepreneurship.

Elizabeth, through previous experience working in health care, started examining the issue of hospital-acquired infections—and in particular, the lack of consistency in cleaning one of hospitals’ most ubiquitous instruments, the stethoscope.

“Stethoscopes aren’t disinfected as frequently as the literature recommends to avoid bacterial transmission,” she said, “and since it’s one of the most commonly used tools in health care I knew that if a solution hadn’t been adopted yet, then nothing viable currently existed in the market.”

She pitched this idea while attending the January 2016 Yale Healthcare Hackathon with other UConn students. “I was approached by several clinicians who wanted to help design a solution. We recognized that current methods were too time-consuming and inconvenient.”

She and her new collaborators created the Protectiscope, a device that can apply a disposable film with a one-hand swiping motion. Since it’s designed to be wall-mounted next to hand sanitizer dispensers, doctors don’t have to go out of their way to disinfect their stethoscopes.

Ryan Cordier ’18 (ENG), Elizabeth’s colleague and collaborator, created a 3D printed prototype at the Hackathon—and added another using the School of Engineering’s 3D printing lab—to bring to potential clients, attracting interest from several clinical practices in Connecticut.

Her invention was awarded first place in UConn’s Innovation Quest competition—a program entirely funded, supported, and driven by alumni—to help launch Protectiscope. She’ll also continue to study how stethoscopes play a role in the spread of hospital-acquired infections with the IDEA grant she was awarded last spring.

“If it weren’t for donors, UConn would be limited in the variety of unique programs it would be able to offer,” said Elizabeth. “Many of my accomplishments are due to alumni who give back, and for that I’m incredibly thankful!”

As you might imagine, Elizabeth hopes to pursue a career in the medical field—and we say she’s off to a pretty good start.

Give students like Elizabeth a leg up by donating to the Fund for UConn