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Challenge to Change | MBA’s game-changing app takes the impact out of concussions

UBC MBA alum Kerry Costello is revolutionizing how we test for concussions.


thechallenge

Kerry Costello is a natural leader, a gifted athlete and a well-respected coach. That much she knew. But she wanted her career to better leverage these talents.

Costello was managing multiple Starbucks locations and liked what her job was teaching her about running a business.

“Each Starbucks coffee shop operates like an individual venture,” she says. “So I dealt with everything from HR issues to inventory and merchandising.”

But she felt constrained by the corporate retail environment. She wanted to bring new ideas to the table in a way her role couldn’t accommodate.

With a desire to drive change, she says she chose the MBA at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School to reposition herself as a leader of innovation.

thepersonality

In the MBA program, Costello further developed the leadership skills she had cultivated at Starbucks and as a basketball coach. “I’m a solution-oriented person,” she says. “If someone’s facing an obstacle I want to help them overcome it, whether that’s on the court or in the classroom.”

As it turns out, sports coaching gave Costello valuable insights that she later transferred to leading business innovation. It also helped in the teamwork that drives the UBC MBA program.

“Coaching taught me a lot about managing different personalities, about working together to achieve the same goal,” she says. “I found that helped throughout my MBA.”

theexperience

While studying at UBC Sauder, Costello took the course Tech Entrepreneurship that matches masters and PhD candidates from engineering and science with MBAs. It was there that Costello had her first foray into sports medicine tech development. She and a small team created a compression shirt designed to strengthen a wearer’s inner core muscles.

“I learned how to take a product from idea to reality,” she says. “We built a business case, explored viability and pitched to real angel investors.”

Thanks to the diverse mix of students from across campus that she was exposed to in the UBC MBA, Costello met kinesiology PhD candidate, Harrison Brown, who had developed a groundbreaking way to objectively measure human balance. His background complemented Costello’s previous experience, so they partnered up.

Kerry pull quote - field

“Working together on a business plan assignment was the beginning of what would ultimately become our company,” she says.

thechange

Now, Costello and Brown run HeadCheck Health with fellow UBC Sauder alum Alexey Manov. The start-up has developed an app and wireless headband that allow sports therapists to accurately assess the key symptom of concussions in athletes – balance – right on the sidelines for the first time.

“The problem with the existing test is that it’s subjective,” Costello says. “We’ve developed a way to test balance with a much higher degree of certainty – reliability is higher than 91 per cent, a lot higher than the subjective grading that they’re currently using which is around 40 to 50 per cent.”

The HeadCheck Health app and its wireless headband are already being used by UBC sports teams, as well as major junior hockey teams like the Edmonton Oil Kings and Victoria Royals.

Going beyond the field of play, Costello and her team plan to expand HeadCheck Health to serve other areas where concussions are a problem – from the military to the ER.

“Our aim is that one day it will be used wherever concussions are an issue,” says Costello.
 

VName: Kerry Costello
Title: COO, Co-Founder, HeadCheck Health, Vancouver
Track: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Nationality: Canadian (Vancouver)