This is the second in a series of posts about the winners of SCORE DC’s 2021 Black Entrepreneur Pitch Event competition with MagicMakers Group.
2021 Black Entrepreneur Pitch Event Winner – Start-up Service Category
The shortage of Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) pre-dates the pandemic, but it was the pandemic that stirred public health physician and technology entrepreneur Dr. Charlene Brown to tackle the issue. With the aging Baby Boomer generation, the problem would grow only more acute.
CNA training requires both classroom and clinical components; the clinical part taking place in nursing homes. However, as nursing homes closed to only essential qualified workers during the pandemic, nursing assistant instructors told Dr. Brown that they struggled to find suitable alternatives, further clogging the pipeline of needed and qualified caregivers. As a medical student and doctor, she had benefited from case-based learning and simulation as part of her training. She was astounded to find that though similar training programs also exist for nursing and medical students, options for CNAs were limited. Dr. Brown was affronted with a “sense of injustice” posed by this gap. CNAs are typically low-wage women of color. “Why shouldn’t these front-line workers have the same access to advanced learning tools that the rest of health care professionals have,” she asked. “It fired me up.”
As a public health physician, Dr. Brown had spent most of her career designing programs to tackle large-scale health problems like the pandemic. “I love doing work that impacts populations at scale,” she said. “You’re thinking about the health of the community, the city, the country and I love that.” But she had also flirted with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur; the type of entrepreneur that could make a significant impact on social problems through the power of technology. Dr. Brown had already founded a technology company Caregiver Jobs Now, an award-winning platform connecting caregivers to meaningful jobs in senior care. Now, she harnessed technology once again to make an impact on the lives of these future CNAs and their patients. And CNA Simulations VR was born.
CNA Simulations VR offers a series of interactive, online, educational games (or simulations) that CNA students can use to supplement or replace the in-person, in-facility clinical part of their training. The company already has a waitlist of schools waiting for its release.
Winning the pitch event came “at a critical moment in the business,” said Dr. Brown. “The $8000 prize will make a huge difference in my ability to build the program and the pace at which I can get it to market.” The pilot program is expected to launch this summer.
Charlene Brown is a new SCORE DC client, working with SCORE mentor (and technology company founder) Kristin Sharpe who helped prepare her for the pitch event. But Charlene “won’t let her go” now that it’s over. “It’s great to work with someone who’s travelled a similar road,” she added. “I can ask her questions that range from the mundane to the more complex.”