Name: Dr. Solmaz Piri
Company: Virtual Med Trainer
Pioneer Program Participant: 2020
An Interview with Dr. Solmaz Piri
Tell me a little bit about your business.
Virtual Med Trainer produces simulated laparoscopic surgery education solutions. Through interactive and non-repetitive virtual reality scenarios, their system is designed to act as a trainer for healthcare professionals learning how to perform laparoscopic surgery.
What’s your background?
Dr. Solmaz Piri was exposed to many types of training during her education as a medical student, foundation year doctor, specialty resident and subspecialty fellow. At the beginning, they learned medical procedures primarily on plastic mannequins. As her education continued, and her studies became more specific to obstetrics and the gynecology field, Solmaz became concerned about patient risks. During her fetal medicine fellowship in King’s College Hospital, London, she started scanning the fetus, and studying and measuring fetal anatomical organs that are measured in millimeters, a very delicate field with little room for error. She desperately started looking for some sort of simulation to help her learn fetal medicine procedures, but nothing was available at that time.
She and her colleagues started putting the idea to practice first by inserting a needle into a bottle of ultrasound gel to simulate sampling amniotic fluid or amniocentesis. In 2019, Solmaz accepted a new teaching role with The International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG) and in 2021 was elected an ambassador of ISUOG in the Middle East and North Africa. Responsible for leading the way and teaching her trainee doctors, she reflected on her past experience and the need that wasn’t met at that time – and that’s when she had a breakthrough moment!
Enter Virtual Med Trainer.
Solmaz started her new venture in 2019 and the business was registered the following year.
What made you want to pursue entrepreneurship and start your business?
Solmaz has been working in the field for a long time. She had a lot of experience directly dealing with women and their unborn children. Contributing to women’s health, in her mind, meant helping foster a healthy, upcoming generation, which ultimately strengthens the overall society.
In her words, “empowered women can significantly contribute to an empowered society.”
Why did you want to move to Canada?
Solmaz researched a handful of different countries, but she ultimately decided to apply through the Canadian Startup VISA program. Good living conditions and an environment a start-up could thrive in, were two of Canada’s selling points.
Her technical adviser, Hossein of 6Success, also mentioned that “Canada is very welcoming for international entrepreneurs. In the United States, there is no specific path for entrepreneurs.”
What is your status now?
Solmaz is still in Iran, awaiting her Permanent Residence application to be approved. There have been delays, which has been hard but when asked the question, she beautifully elaborated by reciting an Ernest Hemmingway quote from The Old Man and the Sea:
“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
When you were considering bringing your business to Canada, did you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
Starting a new business always comes with its own concerns, but at the same time, it’s exciting. If you have a vision, then it keeps you moving forward.
It’s not easy, but if you stay consistent and committed, you will survive the competitive environment and succeed.
Talk about your experience as a Pioneer Program participant.
Solmaz used Synergy Lab’s Pioneer Program “as a guide.” She was introduced to the program back in 2020. At that point, she had already been in practice for 20 years, with her own team and a wealth of knowledge. But as a doctor, you never officially take a program specifically related to business. The Pioneer Program taught her everything she needed to know regarding digital marketing and social media, the value of connections, market research and how to make her way through a new environment and society as a whole. Following the program, she started consciously looking for Canadian partners and research opportunities. It was the program that showed her the way.
What has been the greatest lessons you’ve learned since starting your journey?
- Be persistent.
- Innovate, always.
- Be conscious of everything and get acquainted with your teammates’ and partners’ strengths and weaknesses, constantly lead and iterate your teamwork.
- Maintain work/life balance to prevent burnout.
- Be open and flexible, and always take advice.
- Success is like a chain, composed of many links. Each and every link matters.
What goals do you have for you and your business?
Medicine is an ongoing and improving science, subject to many changes in the future. Aside from making a product and bringing it to market, Solmaz plans to speak to potential customers and investors, to better understand their pain points.
She believes her team at Virtual Med Trainer can act as the bridge between customers and the emerging science and technical team, bringing them together to help improve existing medical training experiences.