Co-op lets students pursue their entrepreneurial passions
Like many students who choose the University of Waterloo, Madison McBay was attracted by its co-op program. The two-years of meaningful work experience students gain through the program helps prepare them for their futures after graduation. When McBay first enrolled as a health studies major in 2017, she had no idea that co-op would lead her to become a co-founder of the startup TAMVOES.
She used her co-op experiences to follow her passion for improving the health-care system through technology. By the end of her undergrad degree, McBay had already garnered a list of achievements, including winning the Faculty of Health 2021 Co-op Student of the Year. We asked McBay about her co-op experience as an entrepreneur.
What inspired you to join TAMVOES?
I was inspired by my co-founder, Jessica Lunshof, and her experience as a nurse and a caregiver for her mom and grandmother. Seeing the inefficiencies within the system, especially with regard to information transfer and preventative care, Jessica began to conceptualize the TAMVOES platform as it is today.
TAMVOES is an online platform for individuals to store and share their personal health information with family members and professionals.
I joined Jessica during the initial scoping phases of TAMVOES and facilitated many of the company’s first steps during my co-op term as project manager. When jumping in eagerly, I realized that there was so much more that I could learn and contribute to this space. Taking my knowledge of the social determinants of health, preventative care, data driven health care and health informatics, I was excited and motivated by the opportunity to apply this knowledge across my work every day.
While listening to the stories of many patients who were struggling within the health-care system or caring for a loved one who was sick, I was determined to find a solution. Throughout my co-op term, I remained very passionate about TAMVOES. My passion was recognized when Jessica promoted me to senior vice-president and co-founder, as well as an equity position within the company.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Waterloo?
Growing up in Waterloo, I have always known that the University of Waterloo was well-known globally for co-op and this drove my decision to apply in high school. Co-op offered me the ability to test-drive the different areas of health studies so that I could jump into the workforce upon graduation. I am thankful that I made the choice to pursue co-op at the University of Waterloo because I feel as though I have truly solidified my direction within my field.
This is something that I struggled to articulate for myself when I started university. However, the experiences I had while in co-op contributed immensely to my growth as an individual and professional. Working at TAMVOES, I was able to meet health-care professionals from across the field and this led me to my current path with health informatics. Co-op gave me the confidence I need to be successful in interviews. My time at TAMVOES was eye-opening with regards to the opportunities within my program of study. I was able to work alongside many entrepreneurs and see the support which exists for females within the technology and health sector.
My time at the University was during a unique time in the world. Over the past few years, not only has the education system changed but co-op has also changed. The evolution of these changes is apparent in my own adaptability over the years as well as many of my peers. I think we can all agree that the transition from in-person to online and hybrid learning was difficult, but I also believe that these new approaches have opened far more opportunities for innovation and growth. Looking back, I could have never imagined my university experience to unfold like this in these unprecedented times. However, I can confidently say that every hurdle I have faced has become an opportunity — whether I felt that way at the time or not. Waterloo was the core and the anchor to all these experiences and their support for innovation and growth within their students is unmatched.
How has the co-op program supported your entrepreneurial journey in health technology?
I found my co-op placements and the Health Studies program helpful in pursuing an entrepreneurial passion for health technology. Prior to my undergraduate degree, I was not even aware of the field of health informatics, let alone the growth and impact that it can have within health care. Being introduced to health informatics in my second year and then being able to apply it in my co-op terms was the perfect opportunity for me to get insight into a career in this sector.
Building on this knowledge within my academic terms and then seeing real-life applications of it daily within TAMVOES drove me to continue to seek learning opportunities. Without this intellectual curiosity, I would not have been exposed to entrepreneurship and the business interactions which came along with that experience. The co-op program was very adaptable and supportive of my entrepreneurial path, which ultimately this allowed me to personalize my degree while pursuing my passion for health technology.
What is your vision for the future of technological advances in healthcare?
I believe that using technological advances to redesign our health systems and health data applications is the most strategic way forward. As technology continues to reinvent itself at a rapid pace, there is no doubt that it can and should be leveraged to improve health care. Whether it is utilized to improve the patient experience, patient outcomes, treatment, diagnosis, preventative care, funding or any other areas of health care, we know that the combination of data and technology is powerful and should be used to better the system as a whole.
With the shift to bringing patients closer to their information and deeper into their own care experience, it is our responsibility to provide usable and inclusive applications through modern technology. When executed properly, this will continue to greatly impact the health-care system. Looking ahead, I can only imagine the advances that are yet to come. This industry is moving at an exponential pace, and we are lucky to see many technologies supporting the outcomes of patients every day. I believe technology will continue to extend the lives of humans and it primarily starts with prevention.
Since graduating, you’re no longer with TAMVOES. What’s next for you?
As a recent graduate, I am continuing to seek opportunities where technology can be used to improve the lives of others. My primary focus is on integrating health and technology to facilitate the adoption of data-driven approaches within the health-care system. I would like to continue to utilize my knowledge from my degree and my life experiences up to this point to have a positive impact within this sector which I am closely connected to.
I will be looking to support existing organizations that have a large influence in this space while also seeking new and innovative solutions to pursue. As a young professional, I stand by my earlier advice and continue to be open-minded about the direction that my degree will take me. I know there is much ahead, including challenges, successes and new opportunities, and I am excited to see where my journey will take me.