Boundless innovation

Fourth year leads Health Unbound startup

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Fourth-year Engineering student Dasha Tyshlek founded Health Unbound, a startup focusing on entrepreneurship in the health field, during her time at the University. 

Sabrina Ferrero | Cavalier Daily

During her four years at the University, fourth-year Engineering student Dasha Tyshlek developed a passion for healthcare innovation. Chosen as a national University Innovation Fellow, Tyshlek gained skills which helped her spearhead Health Unbound — a startup aiming to shed light on the importance of entrepreneurship in the field of health and science.

Tyshlek said the University Innovation Fellowship Program was vital to the success of her startup.

“The most impactful organization I’ve been involved with would probably be the University Innovation Fellowship Program,” Tyshlek said. “Through the program, I’ve investigated what entrepreneurship is like in the science and health world, which has been invaluable for me in evaluating how to best reach out to the student body. It gives a framework for how different cultures and health work, how students and the student body work.”

While starting Health Unbound has come with challenges, Tyshlek said it is one of her biggest accomplishments at the University.

“[Health Unbound] has been difficult to run for it’s first year,” Tyshlek said. “It’s completely student run, but it has been successful enough that people know who we are. The teams win a lot of competitions for healthcare innovations and actually create prototypes for these things that could one day make a difference in the healthcare world.”

In addition to starting Health Unbound, Tyshlek established the Entrepreneurship chair position within the Engineering School’s Rodman Scholar Council and created her own major, which consists of sustainability, biomedical and chemical engineering.

“My education is largely based on extensive extracurricular knowledge,” Tyshlek said. “I had imagined it would come from inside classes. At U.Va, it is very free form — you have to make your own education. You can get half of your education from things outside class if you do it enough.”

While the Engineering School has allowed Tyshlek to work on a host of creative projects, she found the school’s math-heavy coursework challenging.

“I’m really glad I stuck with [the Engineering School] because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the projects that have been so critical to my passion for healthcare innovation,” Tyshlek said. “I would get very discouraged because I was not very good at math compared to the other U.Va. Engineering students. Math is really important in engineering, so my difficulty with it made it tough to get through the math-heavy classes. I’m grateful that I didn’t let my difficulty with math deter me from staying in the E-School.”

Second-year College student Tarun Kalakoti, who first met Tyshlek at a biomedical expo last year, said Tyshlek’s enthusiasm for design and innovation convinced Kalakoti to join one of her healthcare projects.

“She’s an extremely self-motivated individual who seeks a high level of professionalism and excellence in everything she does,” Kalakoti said in an email. “She’s also very easy to get along with.”

Kalakoti said Tyshlek’s biomedical engineering skills, coupled with her creativity and passion for her work, will give her many opportunities in the future.

“I think she has transferrable skills that can really take her anywhere in life,” Kalakoti said in an email. “She’s able to manage and lead while also being willing to do each of her ‘workers’ jobs if need be.”

After graduation, Tyshlek plans on staying in Charlottesville for a year to work on Health Unbound and her capstone project. Afterwards, she will work for Bridgewater Associates as a manager.

“A lot of people ask me if I’m going into finance, but I’m using the position as a way to learn how to manage and organize people so that I can take those skills and use them to help grow support for my pursuits in healthcare innovation,” Tyshlek said. “Health Unbound, [the] Advanced Design [course] and [the] Capstone [Program] have directly prepared me for what’s ahead."

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