Featured MassKicker

Mitchell Silva PhD

Express what you have to express, and surround yourself with the people and environment that give you the energy to go on.

Mitchell Silva is another international mAss Kicker.  He is currently in Brussels, Belgium, but hails from Cape Town, South Africa.  We were very fortunate to meet Dr. Silva in San Diego years ago.  Dr. Silva is one of the co-founders of Esperity.  We have maintained contact and were very fortunate to co-present with Esperity at different venues across Brussels last Fall!  He has a master degree and a PhD in Bio-Engineering Bio-Systems Technology from the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has also coordinated international projects for the European Space Agency. Dr. Silva specializes in technology and algorithm development for health monitoring.  We look forward to presenting with them later this year in South Africa.  We were very fortunate to catch Dr. Silva in some downtime and ask him a few questions.

mK: Thanks for doing this interview Dr. Silva! What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
MS: From a personal point of view, we had several cancers in the family. From a professional angle, I am the co-founder of Esperity, a social platform for cancer patients aiming at providing all the resources patients need to become fully empowered to increase their quality of life. At the same time, I have met a lot of young adult survivors, and most of them became good friends! The amount energy they give is tremendous, knowing about the challenges they faced and the way they look to life is sometimes inspirational.

mK: Why did you create Esperity?
MS: In 2009 I got the diagnosis of a rare disease, called EGPA or Churg Strauss. This is an auto-immune disease involving vasculitis, which is controllable with a daily dose of prednisone. So, since my diagnosis, I am on daily medication to manage my disease. As a PhD in bio-engineering, I was interested to analyze more in detail how my symptoms related to the medication dose I took. For this, I started to develop a tool where one could enter his medication dose and overlay on the symptoms, resulting in patterns. At the same time, spring 2012, I was going to the gym to gain some muscle mass, where I met my co-founder of Esperity (Erard), who approached me saying that he sees patients on a daily basis and has a feeling much more is to be done to bring credible information to patients and to allow patients to learn from each other. So, we combined his idea with my platform, and this is how Esperity was born. With Esperity, we aim to increase the quality of life of patients by providing an online platform that offers modules to help patients to become empowered, including a social network, health tracking tools, lifestyle recommendations, etc.

mK: What motivates you?
MS: Sunshine, energetic people, good food. Being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do also inspires me, and gives me the motivation to continue.

mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
MS Ranging from all the patient advocates out there, world class scientists to Tony Robbins.

mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
MS: Being an entrepreneur has all three of them, so that summarizes it quite well. Having good time with family and friends of course is also fun, enjoying the small pleasures in life, but also sharing frustrations. Or, it even happens that I cry from laughing. I can also become upset by how disease can struck people and families.

mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
MS: I would say: Besides starting Esperity (mix of technology, philanthropy and human experiences with emotional stories make this a unique adventure), being in pig stables in Italy to test my cough detection algorithms based on a grid of microphones.

mK: Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
MS: It is difficult to say, as I am not an actual survivor, but after having met so many people the last years who went through cancer, I can image it is how to cope with the idea that cancer can be back again, the sense of walking on an edge. Finding the right support, not only medically, but most of all psycho-socially, seems to be a touch challenge. In fact, it is like trying to live with a new identity.

mK: Yeah, it is like a “re-birth”, but a survivor can decide how they create their new identity… Anyways, What is your guilty pleasure?
MS: Chocolate, beer, baking nice but unhealthy stuff☺.

mK: HAHAHA!  What are you up to now?
MS: I am in Belgium now, at our Esperity HQ office, about to prepare some presentations to talk about patient-centricity in clinical studies, while enjoying the spring weather that finally has arrived.

mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
MS: Express what you have to express, and surround yourself with the people and environment that give you the energy to go on.

mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
MS: Good olive oil gives me a food-gasm.

mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
MS: Kick (m)ass and I hope that the vibrant mAss Kickers community will inspire so many other thrivers around the globe via their educational events. I am looking forward to join the next mAss Kickers trip to South Africa!

Dr. Mitch Silva:  hardcore “foodie”, baker, “pig-cough” algorithm recorder, innovative internet entrepreneur, scientist, and patient advocate.  Thanks for answering our questions.  We look forward to future collaborations with Esperity.  Sign up for their social platform to connect with survivors all over the world to learn about the tumor/cancer experience in different parts of the world! www.esperity.com

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