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YOUNG WOMAN IN A HURRY

 

There are a lot of complaints about young people these days, including that they’re lazy, entitled, and in strange way, naïve, in that many of them don’t understand how the world actually works, and worse, don’t seem all that interested in learning. There is some substance to these descriptions, but there are also- as always- many, many exceptions, young people who are out in the world being good citizens, contributing to our society, and in the cliché of our time, “changing the world.” There is one young woman in particular who is doing all this and more: Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, the revolutionary health care company that has the potential to change not only  the way medicine is practiced here in the United States, but around the entire world, bringing improved health and diagnostic capabilities to billions of people all over the planet.

Holmes’ company, Theranos, grew out of an idea she developed as a 19-year-old second-year college student at Stanford.  As a child in Washington D.C. and Houston, Texas, she had hated shots and blood tests, and as she got older she wondered if getting very specific with the chemical processes used to assay blood, and then writing software to rationalize and optimize the procedures of each test could make a test that would lessen the physical impact of a blood test, and more importantly, speed up the turn around time for results of the tests. Theranos can get run-of-the-mill tests result in the time that current labs can only do the most urgent emergencies, and then, because the process uses so little blood, they can them do follow-on tests that a doctor might request just as quickly. And, Theranos can do this for fifty to ninety percent less cost than current laboratories. The implications of this for Medicare alone are staggering.

But Holmes’s vision is even bigger than that- while she hopes that her technology can provide her fellow Americans with faster, cheaper and more reliable medical tests, the core of her vision involves maximizing the potential of Theranos by improving (sometimes providing for the first time) reliable medical testing all over the world. Therano’s smaller equipment, faster turnaround, and ability to do multiple tests with a small amount of drawn blood help simplify the issues for clinical situations in the developing world, and promise a revolution in health care that could be as significant to global society as the introduction of the personal computer and everything that has happened since. Not bad for someone who just entered her 30s.

As Holmes told Fortune magazine“This is about being able to do good. And it’s about being able to change the health care system through what we believe this country does so well, which is innovation and creativity and the ability to conceive of technology that can help solve policy challenges.” It will be fascinating and exciting to watch Elizabeth Holmes develop as a person and a CEO over the next 30-40 years, and it is deeply encouraging to consider all the good that is yet to be done.

 

 

A LINK to Fortune’s profile of Elizabeth Holmes: http://fortune.com/2014/06/12/theranos-blood-holmes/

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