By Ali Krogman
The two University of Iowa seniors teamed up to create ORGANizer, a communication system for organ procurement information.
The focus of their business is to expedite the organ transplant communication between health professionals and medical facilities, such as through a mobile app.
Shaull’s initial idea was to create a platform to address the accuracy of diagnosing peripheral nerve damage after he was in an accident that severely injured his right arm. However, his uncle introduced him to the field of organ transplant, and he decided to change his plans.
Soon, he met Pahl, a biomedical engineering student who became passionate about the quality and affordability of health care after his 7-year-old cousin was hit by a truck and lost a leg.
“I immediately saw we had the same goals to develop a platform to save and transform people’s lives,” Shaull said. “Since then, we began to realize a significant inefficiency in organ-transplant communication.”
Their goal is to bring the number of patients on all organ waiting lists down to a very small number, ideally zero, with no patient waiting longer than a month to receive a life-saving transplant.
The two have been learning about the complex process for about six months.
“Organ donation is one of the most special gifts that any human can give another,” Shaull said. “The gift of life.”
According to the Iowa Donor Network, there were only 60 organ donors in the state of Iowa last year. Tony Hakes, public outreach director for the Iowa Donor Network, said because of modern technology and services, there aren’t a lot of injuries that allow a person to become a donor.
“We also find a lot of people rule themselves out to be donors,” Hakes said. “We say always register, never rule yourself out.”
Shaull said the pair never ruled out the idea becoming reality.
Shaull and Pahl said they used the lean start-up method taught in an entrepreneurship class. They interviewed transplant surgeons, doctors, nurses, and administrative staff at UIHC, as well as the Iowa Donor Network and shadowed an organ allocation in real time.
“The more we talked to our customers and made the necessary pivots, the further we built out our business,” Shaull said.
The pair said starting a business as full-time students isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
“Professionals are open to students wanting to learn,” Pahl said. “And the university offers tons of opportunities to become an entrepreneur.”
Shaull said it can be easy to get caught up in the stress of the business, and sacrifices have to be made, but good health and family have made it possible for the pair to succeed.