About Us

Who We Are

SafeStart Medical is the result of a career-long passion for patient safety. Despite health care information technology and the WHO Universal Protocol checklists, Never Events continue to occur at an alarming rate. We need to address medical system errors that cause great patient harm.

SafeStart is not just a checklist - it’s a safety system.

We drive the safety process from the front office through the operating room, engaging patients and staff along the way. Our team of surgeons, patients, and healthcare experts put patient safety first. Always.

Team

Team Member

Richard Vazquez - CEO/CMO

MD, FACS

Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery Emeritus at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, is a general surgeon, and serial entrepreneur. Dr. Vazquez practiced general surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois for 38 years. Dr. Vazquez is the creator of the SafeStart surgical safety and efficiency and software mobile application suite and is the CMO/CEO/founder of SafeStart Medical, Inc. Dr. Vazquez frequently lectures on surgical safety and holds certifications by the ARDMS (RVT, RPVI) for vascular ultrasound. He is a member at MATTER Chicago HIT incubator. He acted as the Director of medical affairs at Soft Tissue Sciences/PSD (PolyPro® Hydrocoat Hernia Mesh). Dr. Vazquez sits on the advisory boards of several HIT startups including TapCloud, LLC, Mondopoint, LLC., and Valhalla HealthCare. He continues to consult with Surgical Innovation Assoicates and Innoblative in Chicago. He is currently the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Medical Informatics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and he participates as a team mentor in the Masters of Science in Law Program at the Pritzger Shool of Law.
Team Member

Mark Stega - CTO

MD

Mark has been a thought leader in the health care industry for more than 25 years, introducing new and innovative ways of using information technology. As founder and chief executive officer of one of the first electronic medical records (EMR) companies, he has worked with healthcare executives in over 1,400 health systems. He successfully grew and then sold QMI to GE Medical Systems where he served as chief technical officer for Marquette Medical Systems, a division of GE Medical. Mark earned his BS in Computer Science at the University of Maryland and completed his Doctor of Medicine Degree at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In addition, he is a graduate of the Dartmouth Amos Tuck School of Business Corporate Executive Leadership Program.
Team Member

Dima Elissa-COO, Global Venture Strategist

MBA

Dima Elissa is aglobal healthcare venture strategist, driving innovation from the outside and in. She is a serial tech-preneur, investor, mentor, educator with over 20 years of launching new ventures including VisMed-3D, a biomedical design and technology consulting firm that uses AI to intelligently predict, visualize, and optimize presurgical planning and interoperable workflows for quality medical care. Dima was selected by Chicago magazine as one of the top Women in Tech, ChicagoInno’s 50 on Fire, MakeItBetter’s Top Chicago Women in Science and by Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Vault as one of the Top 100 entrepreneurs in Chicago. As an LGBT White House delegate on Technology and Innovation, an adjunct faculty member teaching Entrepreneurship at DePaul University, or as an in-demand speaker, she exemplifies her commitment to giving back and paying it forward. Her most recent designation as the American Medical Woman’s Association (AMWA) Tech and Innovation Lead under the Diversity, Inclusion & Innovation (DI&I) sector, she promotes STEMM for women seeking healthcare careers or who want to commercialize business ideas to improve the practice of medicine. Dima also serves in a number of board positions including Hanover College board of trustees, a board member for mHUB, past Chicago Chapter President and current board member for Women in Bio, and a Founding Board Member of the DePaul’s Women In Entrepreneurship Instituteamong other roles. Dima holds a B.A. in Chemistry from Hanover College and has earned her MBA from Texas A&M’s May’s School of Business with a concentration in Finance. @dimaelissa @vismed3d
Team Member

Richard H. Pearl MD, Global Strategic Advisor Safety and Simulation

FACS, FAAP, FRCS

Richard H. Pearl MD set a high bar for academic excellence, surgical innovation, and professional integrity through his 38 year clinical career and exemplary academic teaching. The US military recognized him with numerous military decorations and his peers have globally recognized his achievements in pediatric surgery across public and private health sector domains. Dr. Pearl completed a General Surgery Residency at Harvard Surgical Service, New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston Massachusetts and a Pediatric Surgery Fellowship at the hospital of Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, where he later became Chief of Pediatric Surgery. In conjunction with this medical training and service as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, he received numerous military honors including the Bronze Star with 2 oak leaf clusters and Legion of Merit during his distinguished military career spanning from 1966-1994.From 1988-1994 he served his country as Chief, Pediatric Surgical Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. To name just a few of Dr. Pearl’s numerous academic and professional positions and honors, Dr. Pearl is Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics(Emeritus) at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and was Chief, Section of Pediatric Surgery, Attending Team Leader of the General Surgery Residency Pediatric Surgery Service, and Director of the Pre-Op Case Conference. He received the 2002-2003 UICOMP Faculty of the Year’ Award and the UIC all campus Faculty of the Year award as well. . The resident class of 2010 voted Dr. Pearl ‘Teacher of the Year’. For 20 years he was Children’s Hospital of Illinois Surgeon-in-Chief from 1998-2018 and directed Pediatric Trauma as well. Dr. Pearl fulfilled a professional dream by playing a pivotal role in the development and construction of the world class Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center where he served as the Director of the ACS Surgical Simulation Fellowship . Dr. Pearl is the father of three daughters, is recently retired from active practices but still serves on three boards at OSF and is active in activities at UICOMP.
Team Member

Adila Esaak - Chief Marketing Officer

BS

Adila received her BS in Health Systems Management from Loyola University Chicago and holds certifications in Healthcare Quality & Safety, Lean Project Management, and a Six Sigma Green Belt. She has experience marketing for Loyola's primary care facility, Advocate Aurora, and an advance care planning health-tech startup. Adila joined SafeStart in 2019 and serves as Chief Marketing Officer where she oversees a variety of business management roles contributing to product development, implementation, and supervising SafeStart's Business Development interns. Additionally, she holds multiple certifications in HubSpot's Customer Relationship Management software and is driven to accelerate marketing strategy, sales enablement, customer success and the evolution of SafeStart's brand.
Team Member

Jim Anfield - VP Business Development and IT Consultant

BS, MS, MBA

Senior executive experienced in information technology, strategic planning, and finance, program management with specific market expertise across several different industries including health care and manufacturing. Proven ability to strategize, propose and manage new business opportunities. Consistently successful in analyzing emerging market trends in order to capitalize on these opportunities. Critical thinker and innovative problem solver able to bridge effectively between business and technology worlds. Results focused and proven effective leader able to motivate diverse teams across both internal and external organizations. Published author and conference speaker. Fluent and experienced in outsourcing and insourcing, IT strategy, consulting, financial modeling, program management, business case development, budgeting and capital analysis, benchmarking, management consulting, performance analysis, process improvement, strategic planning, optimization, governance, project management, contract negotiation, vendor management, and IT transformation, and mobile.

Advisory Board

Advisor photo

David Bisterfeldt

DDS

Dr. Bisterfeldt is a general dentist at the Northwestern Dental Center located within Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL. He attained his BS in molecular biology from Benedictine University in 2006 and his DDS from the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Dentistry in 2010. Dr. Bisterfeldt has a keen interest in the use of technology in medical and dental applications and has been an advisor for SafeStart Medical since 2017
Advisor photo

Douglas E. Ott

MD, MBA

Douglas E. Ott, MD, MBA is a physician, scientist, and businessman. Dr. Ott received his MD from University of Louisville and his MBA from Mercer University. He is Adjunct Professor Biomedical Engineering and Adjunct Professor of Business and Economics at Mercer University. Dr. Ott also is the chair of the Clinical Advisory Board for The American Institute of Minimally Invasive Surgery, and an advisor for Stealth Learning. He has received multiple awards for his exemplary work. Dr. Ott was the recipient of the 1992 ASLMS Basic Science Research Award. In 1999 and 2004 he received the Kott Award for Best New Instrumentation, the 2001 Kurt Semm Award from AAGL. In 2010 he was the recipient of the SLS Excel award, as well as numerous international awards for prize papers and research. Dr. Ott founded 3 medical companies; LEXION Medical, Hemerus Medical and COAG. He serves on the board of Directors of LEXION and COAG, and currently holds 38 patents.
Advisor photo

George R. Cybulski

MD, MBA

Dr. Cybulski is an Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University. Dr. Cybulski is also the Associate Director of the Neurological Surgery Residency Training Program at the McGaw Medical Center for Northwestern University and the Associate Director of Operations (Operating Room) for the Department of Neurological Surgery. As a practicing Neurosurgeon Dr. Cybulski has identified and participated in process improvement projects in the operating room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Cybulski completed his MBA in Health Care Management at Loyola University in 2010 along with the NMH Process Improvement Course (DMAIC). Dr. Cybulski advises companies on the value proposition for health care delivery and has lectured and written on the effect of health care reform on specialty services.
Advisor photo

John Odden

BS, MCS

Strategic Partner, Health/Medical, Social Services & Public Health A seasoned executive who successfully forms teams and delivers a diverse portfolio of health analytics and transformation projects. He has tackled some of the most complex healthcare IT standards and open source challenges domestically and internationally. John led the formation, solution design and pilot program delivery of an open source solution for secure transactions between health care providers and state agencies. He has experience creating market-entry plans and financial models for launch for an e-health startup based in Germany into the US market, using their novel integration of clinical and revenue cycle capabilities. Previous executive roles at Nortel Networks, First Consulting Group, MedPlus Div. Quest Diagnostics, SIGA Technologies, Inc., Fair Price Systems, Inc. and Coto Partners included a wide range of market, business, technology, and operations development responsibilities. John holds a BS degree in Math from California Institute of Technology, was a Grad Student, Harvard Business School, has an MCS from the Holmes Institute. He is a Board Member for Collaborative for Universal Health, Inc. and The Federation for Identity and Cross-Credentialing Systems (www.fixs.org ). He is a former Board Member & Board President, Public Health Data Standards Consortium (www.phdsc.org )
Advisor photo

Katherine Lee

RN, BSN, CPHRM, CMPE

Katherine Lee, RN, BSN, CPHRM, CMPE has been in healthcare since 1996, the majority of her experience in ambulatory care. Katherine graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Her inpatient nursing experience includes cardiac care, medical and surgical intensive care, post-anesthesia care, and nursing education at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano. Katherine assumed the role of Practice Administrator of a full-scope oral and maxillofacial surgery center in 2005. Under her leadership, the practice was awarded accreditation by the Joint Commission as an office-based surgical center. In addition, the facility was the first office in Tennessee to be certified by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners as an office-based surgical facility and was the only oral and maxillofacial surgical facility in Tennessee to hold that certification. Katherine has served as an educator in the inpatient setting and has given numerous presentations on providing safe care in the oral and maxillofacial surgery practice. Her advocacy for safe patient care has been recognized by other healthcare providers and she serves as a resource on safe patient care in the outpatient setting for both medical and dental practices. She is certified as a Professional in Healthcare Risk Management through the American Hospital Association. Katherine is also board-certified as a Medical Practice Executive by the American College of Medical Practice Executives. Ms. Lee serves as a dental facility inspector for the Tennessee Board of Dentistry. Driven by a passion for patient safety, she is currently a graduate student at Drexel University in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Quality, Safety, and Risk Management. Her professional focus is on the outpatient setting with a special interest in dental and medical practices that deliver anesthesia and sedation. She is the owner of Katie Lee Healthcare Risk Consulting, LLC. providing patient safety consulting services to medical, dental, and office-based surgical facilities.
Advisor photo

Lee Flowers

BS, MS, MBA

Senior executive experienced in information technology, strategic planning, and finance, program management with specific market expertise across several different industries including health care and manufacturing. Proven ability to strategize, propose and manage new business opportunities. Consistently successful in analyzing emerging market trends in order to capitalize on these opportunities. Critical thinker and innovative problem solver able to bridge effectively between business and technology worlds. Results focused and proven effective leader able to motivate diverse teams across both internal and external organizations. Published author and conference speaker. Fluent and experienced in outsourcing and insourcing, IT strategy, consulting, financial modeling, program management, business case development, budgeting and capital analysis, benchmarking, management consulting, performance analysis, process improvement, strategic planning, optimization, governance, project management, contract negotiation, vendor management, and IT transformation, and mobile.
Advisor photo

Randall Ostroff

MD

Dr. Randall Ostroff, MD a board certified anesthesiologist who spent 20 of his 25 clinical years of anesthesia practice as Chairman & Medical Director, Department of Anesthesiology at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, IL. Dr. Ostroff received his MD at The Chicago Medical School and completed his residency in Anesthesiology at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Ostroff also has considerable experience in the pharmaceutical industry. During his 8 years as a Global Medical Director for Abbott his accomplishments included 2 Presidents Awards. He has served as a consultant to several pharmaceutical companies and currently works with Paion AG, a German pharmaceutical company, on the development of an IV formulation for conscious sedation in that is in phase 3 trials.
Advisor photo

Robert M. Vogelzang

MD

Robert M. Vogelzang, MD is The Albert A Nemcek Professor of Interventional Radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and served as Chief of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, one of the largest IR sections in the United States. Dr Vogelzang has been a principal investigator or a coinvestigator on numerous clinical trials, has participated in over 400 lectures, symposia, and conferences, and has published more than 180 peer-reviewed articles, abstracts, and book chapters. Dr Vogelzang served as President of the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) and has served on numerous committees of the SIR and the American College of Radiology. Dr Vogelzang received his medical degree from the Chicago Medical School, completed a residency in diagnostic radiology and a fellowship in interventional radiology and cross sectional imaging at Northwestern University Medical School. He is board certified in Vascular and Interventional Radiology.
Advisor photo

Sencer L. Byrum

Advisor

Designation: Spencer L. Byrum is a founding member and the Chief Executive Officer of HRS Consulting, Inc., a premier human performance improvement company that was specifically created and designed to enhance individual and team decision making in high-risk industries. Mr. Byrum’s specialty is taking lessons learned in aviation and other dangerous occupations and developing innovative process improvements and training for professions in which people need to make critical decisions in a stressful, demanding environment. Since becoming integrally involved in healthcare almost 20 years ago, Mr. Byrum has worked with over 600 healthcare facilities ranging from major tertiary care centers to Ambulatory Surgery Centers to Critical Access Hospitals. He has developed tools for the quantitative and qualitative assessment of the processes associated with the HAIs, SSIs, H&amps;Ps, Informed Consent, Surgical Time Out, Surgical Site Marking, Surgical Counts, Medication Errors, and other processes that have been implemented by some of the largest healthcare institutions and companies in the country. Mr. Byrum has deep experience in assessing over 1,000,000 “near miss and sentinel events” and is an expert in evaluation of the causal factors and remediation of their impact. Finally, Mr. Byrum’s programs have been recognized by major insurers to reduce losses, leading to medical malpractice premium reductions for physicians and facility premium reductions for individual hospitals and related healthcare entities. Mr. Byrum is also the author of High Reliability for a Highly Unreliable World released in January 2018.
Advisor photo

Steve Serota

BS MHA

Steven Serota is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Prior to his role at WDL, Mr. Serota lead Surgical Services, Laboratory Services and built a Speciality Pharmacy for Northwestern Medicine, as well as leading Peri-operative services for Rush Medical Center. Mr. Serota holds a BS in Psychology from Bradley University in Peoria and MHA from Rush University in Chicago. Mr. Serota has extensive experience in operational improvement and M&A with a keen interest in patient centric healthcare optimization through clinical care redesign. Mr. Serota focuses on driving value through operational efficiency, strategic partnerships and optimizing the patient experience.

Our Partners

SafeStart works with or without an EMR