Anjelica Gonzalez on being a founder, professor, and scientist
Anjelica Gonzalez joined the Women Entrepreneurs at Yale on February 25th to tell us about her experience starting a business, teaching at Yale, and running a lab.
“It was a personal experience that inspired” her development of Premiebreathe, a low-cost, mobile neonatal respiratory device, or in other words, a device that helps premature newborns breathe better. Anjelica had twin boys ten years ago and, as is common with newborns, one of them had trouble breathing. Following discussions with emergency room pediatricians, she decided to develop a device that would help other babies experiencing the same types of problems. She sought to create a device that was flexible enough to be used all over the world, including in the developing world, which brought unique challenges. She realized that some equipment wasn’t suitable for the developing world because when one part breaks, they have to just throw it away.
Her personal experiences as a mother and as a daughter inspired key feature of the device. She recognized the power of a mother’s touch and designed PreemieBreathe to allow a mother to breastfeed and hold the baby while the device is in use. Anjelica also noted how being the daughter of someone “who interfaced frequently with people,” she understood how much interaction was necessary with the nurses and designed PremieBreathe to be easy to use by nurses new to the job. Being the grandaughter of a migrant farmer informed her to ask for input from the people in developing countries building the device. These kinds of insights were key to gaining financial help from Ministries of Health and hospitals in Africa.
“I can’t forget the fact that I’m a mother and a woman and a Latina. All of me has to come into my work.”
Anjelica always has human-centered design top of mind and she strives to teach her students to think the same way. She teaches a course about biotech and the developing world. She often shares an anecdote about how “talking to nurses on the ground in Ethiopia, I learned about high nurse turnover and realized I needed to develop a device that was appropriate for that setting.”
When asked how she manages a business, teaching responsibilities, and a lab, she says that, “the only way to balance is to do things that feed you personally and feed one another.” Her work on Premiebreathe, in the classroom, and in the lab all unite around human-centered design and medical innovations. “The fact that every aspect of my work is related makes every one of them better.”
RUNNING A LAB
“A lab is like a small business. There’s people-turnover and different personalities. Everybody brings different skill sets and talents and they don’t always mesh. You have to bring out the best of them so everybody is lifted.”
In the lab, Anjelica combines entrepreneurship and social impact. The idea of innovative thinking is related to diversity issues, she asserts. “It’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake. More innovative solutions come about when there are more diverse perspectives.”
“At Tsai CITY I hope to help connect all the different nodes around campus so students can connect with one another, and professors can connect with students, and the university can be seen as a hub for innovation instead of individual spaces.”
By Claire Kalikman.