Miller School Team Wins Big in Entrepreneurship Competition

A pair of Miller School students took home the Grand Prize in the Graduate/Alumni Track — and a check for $10,000 — in the 2018 University of Miami Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the UM Business School. They also walked away with a separate check for $1,500 for the Best Presentation in the Graduate/Alumni Track. The competition’s final presentations and award ceremony took place on April 11.

Joseph Cioffi, a fourth-year M.D. student, and Andrew Richardson, a fourth-year student in the M.D./M.B.A. program, presented their start-up company, Catalyst Systems, Inc., and its first product — a patented sterile rehydration system that fits into an intraoperative toolkit and is designed to help surgeons avoid impaired cognitive and physical performance caused by dehydration during lengthy procedures.

“We hope to create products that decrease surgical mistakes, increase efficiency, and produce a healthier and happier surgical staff,” said Cioffi, “while allowing hospital systems, and thus the health care industry, to provide health care at a lower overall cost to the patients.”

Cioffi already had entrepreneurial experience, having launched Joeys Clothing Co. in Los Angeles in 2014. Joeys, which sells children’s clothing and donates half of its profits to family homeless shelters, has a strong social orientation. Lotus House is the benefactor in Miami.

“Joeys is run using the triple-bottom-line approach to profit accounting where every decision takes into account social impact, environmental impact and profit gains,” said Cioffi. “All of our clothing is made in the U.S. and sourced from carbon-neutral factories. I wanted to start a company that could do everything the right way. It is always going to be a passion project of mine whenever I have time to grow it.”

Cioffi and Richardson, who begin their residencies this summer, acknowledge the challenges of nurturing a start-up medical career and a start-up business at the same time — especially when they will no longer be in the same place.

Los Angeles native Cioffi, who earned a B.A. in history at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a premedical postbaccalaureate program at the University of Southern California, matched with an internal medicine residency at George Washington University; he hopes to subspecialize in gastroenterology.

Richardson, an Oklahoma City native, earned a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology at UM and worked as a laboratory research assistant at the Miller School before entering the M.D./M.B.A. program. He will remain in Miami for an interventional radiology residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“We both absolutely intend to practice as physicians,” said Richardson. “We intend to do our part and help care for the needs of society. That being said, we don’t believe that practicing medicine and running a business are mutually exclusive, and we foresee our future careers as a mix of both. There are so many opportunities for innovation as medicine continues to evolve. Our goal is to take advantage of those opportunities and continuously improve patients’ health care experiences.”

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