A medical education company that won the 2017 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge has been awarded $400,000 from a University of Chicago program that invests in startups led by UChicago faculty, students, staff or alumni.
The UChicago Startup Investment Program, with support from the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, invests in companies that are raising an early round of funding, known as a Series A. AMOpportunities, which uses an online platform where international medical, nursing and research trainees find sites for their required clinical rotations, now has $2.2 million in this Series A, bringing its total investments to $3.3 million. It is the fifth company to receive funding from the UChicago Startup Investment Program since it began in 2016.
CEO and co-founder Kyle Swinsky, a former pre-med undergraduate student who 10 years ago started helping international med students navigate the complicated U.S. rotation system, said the University of Chicago’s backing, both in funding and in name and reputation, has been vital to the company’s growth. AMOpportunities has increased its company size fivefold in the past year.
“The key is credibility,” said Swinsky, who is now finishing his MBA at Chicago Booth. “In health care education, it’s a ‘brand’ game. To a student, the University of Chicago spells prestige. It means so much that we can convey we have UChicago as an investor and supporter.”
The service provided by the company is particularly important now that the United States’ population is aging, portending a looming primary-care physician shortage, while, at the same time, U.S. med-school students carrying huge debt loads gravitate toward specialty practices.
The company—counting 2,200-plus visitors who have gone through their programs, and 87,000 students and doctors using its platform comprising 225 clinical sites—has started designing curricula for hospitals and medical care providers in rural and underserved communities to help attract medical residents and provide top-notch training and education.
The revenue the platform generates doubled in the past year. AMOpportunities charges from $999 to $4,000 per four-week training program, depending on a trainee’s work hours and the clinical site’s popularity. But there’s an important tweak: The company charges less to the less-popular community clinical sites, often located far away from a big city, to help ensure that diversity and skill-building occur in underserved neighborhoods.
The company also has started a pilot program at Saint Anthony Hospital, an independent community hospital on Chicago’s Southwest Side that has an existing clinical partnership with the University of Chicago, to provide rotations for international doctors and students throughout the hospital, rather than in one specialty area. They’re working to develop partnerships with other hospitals and medical universities across the U.S. to deliver even more high-quality rotations to students.
AMOpportunities’ software innovations enable its platform to cater to students’ needs – helping students gets an online coach upon booking a rotation to guide him or her through red tape involving visas, housing, transportation, first-day to-dos, and other details that make the experience seamless. That’s a change from the old standard of universities placing their medical students with only certain partner clinical sites that may or may not provide the best training, or doctors dodging the bureaucracy to supervise a student on the sly.
“It professionalizes the credentialing and bringing in of (medical student) visitors,” said Swinsky. “It’s most important for us to show the value of medical providers’ diversity and inclusion in health care outcomes; we’re the international student’s advocate,” Swinsky said.
In addition to AMOpportunities, the UChicago Startup Investment Program has supported four other companies since 2016: Explorer Surgical, which makes software for surgical teams to use in the operating room; Tovala, which is a smart oven and meal delivery service to simplify home cooking; Foxtrot, an upscale chain of neighborhood convenience store and grocery delivery startup; and Ascent Technologies, a regulatory compliance software company. All companies, including AMOpportunities, are alums of the New Venture Challenge.