Young Entrepreneur Develops Medical Device To Safeguard Patients’ Safety

By Jane Whitttington on June 12th, 2015 / Comments

Rob Zondervan is a medical student, and, as medical students do, was observing an intricate surgery as part of his training. The surgeon wanted some pictures taken of the procedure to use as teaching aids or to include in publications. He asked Zondervan to pull out his cell phone and get some shots. It occurred to Zondervan that the surgical theatre is a sterile environment, carefully monitored to provide the best outcome for the patient. But a cell phone is definitely not sterile. In fact, it is one of the most germ laden objects most of us touch in a day. However, surgeons routinely bring mobile devices into the surgical field. They use resulting videos or photographs for medical journals, lectures and webcasts. They use them to communicate with other medical professionals. In addition, there are now over 40,000 medical apps for mobile devices, and their use requires a device to be brought into the operating room.

Zondervan’s experience led him to the development of CleanCase, a sterile cover that safely allows the use of mobile devices in the surgical field. SteriDev LLC is the company Zondervan founded in order to research, develop, manufacture and market the CleanCase. But being an entrepreneur is only one of many roles Zondervan is currently playing.

Born in Los Angeles, Zondervan went to Maine for college and then on to Boston to do cancer research. He is now a student in the Michigan State University School of Osteopathic Medicine and is, at the same time, working toward a PhD in physiology with a focus on spine dynamics. He plans to be finished with both programs in three years.

Even for such a driven individual, funding for new ideas is often difficult to find. Zondervan concentrated on local funding sources and was able to interest individuals and organizations in his product. He has received funding from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Green Light Business Model Competition (a collaborative effort of several area businesses and organizations) and other sources.

Zondervan says, “We are currently waiting for FDA approval. Once that happens—and we are thinking that should come through fairly soon—we will be in production in the next six months. We have invited bids from five manufacturers in Michigan; we plan to have this be a Michigan-made product.”

He continues, “There’s been a lot of interest in the product and we’re excited to see it go into production and then be put into use. We will begin by using the CleanCase in three Lansing area hospitals and then introduce it throughout Michigan.  Eventually, we hope to see it in general use.”

Zondervan also serves as an advisor at Spartan Innovations for two other companies selling medical products developed by MSU students. One is a pad for medical students to use to practice suturing, and another is a device using phototherapy to treat infants with jaundice.  Spartan Innovations is described on their website thusly:  “Spartan Innovations provides the educational and financial support necessary to turn MSU research technologies into successful Michigan businesses – and spur entrepreneurship in the Michigan economy.”

Zondervan admits that sleep is rare—and given his many interests, his demanding academic career and his entrepreneurship, it’s easy to see why. Once Zondervan finishes medical school and his PhD program, he hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon as well as continue his business career as he devises creative solutions to problems in the medical arena.


About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.