Location: Centennial, Colorado
Industry: Medical Device
One of the most important factors to good leadership is keeping the focus on the mission, EvoEndo Inc. CEO Heather Underwood said.
“It is critical to communicate and reinforce the mission and reorient the team to the larger goal when things get challenging,” she said. “Being a leader requires making difficult decisions, but if the team trusts that decisions are being made with the mission in mind, the team is better able to navigate change together.”
EvoEndo is a medical device company with a mission to provide a safer, faster and more affordable alternative to sedated upper endoscopy for both adults and pediatric patients. EvoEndo makes endoscopies safer for patients by eliminating the need for general anesthesia while reducing the complexity and cost of endoscopy for physicians and hospitals.
The EvoEndo system combines sterile, single-use, flexible endoscopes with virtual-reality-based patient distraction to allow the procedure to be performed safely without anesthesia or sedation, with more frequent monitoring and faster results. The company’s gastroscope can go comfortably through pediatric nasal anatomy, look at the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, and take high-resolution images and biopsies. Physicians, families and patients get diagnostic test results quickly and can return to work or school following the procedure.
Underwood is a medical device, biodesign and health technology entrepreneur. She received her Ph.D. at the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she developed a digital-pen-based clinical decision support system for nurses and midwives in Kenya. Developing and implementing the PartoPen System at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi solidified Underwood’s passion for working at the intersection of healthcare and technology.
“My goal has never been to be influential or an industry leader,” Underwood said. “These recognitions have fortuitously followed from persistently pursuing my goal of developing and implementing innovative solutions that improve care and reduce inequity in health outcomes. I plan to continue working hard to improve people’s lives through better healthcare solutions for the rest of my career, and I look forward to teaching and mentoring others in the industry in the years to come.”
Underwood became a professor at CU Denver and co-founded Inworks — an interdisciplinary initiative offering courses and certificate programs in innovation, prototyping and design. After four years of building Inworks and teaching about design and entrepreneurship, she was accepted into and completed the prestigious Stanford Biodesign Fellowship program for medical device innovators in 2019. Shortly after completing the program, she was introduced to Dr. Joel Friedlander, co-founder of EvoEndo and pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. That introduction eventually led to Underwood becoming CEO of EvoEndo at the beginning of 2020.
In two and a half years leading EvoEndo, Underwood has raised over $16 million in equity financing for the company, negotiated a distribution partnership to support the launch and commercialization of the EvoEndo System while successfully navigating the FDA clearance process.
“Heather is one of Colorado’s leaders, influencers, and early adopters who are shaping the future of healthcare,” her staff said. “Heather is a resilient, flexible and passionate leader who brings a unique perspective and extraordinary focus to her work while constantly redefining herself.”
"Being a leader requires making difficult decisions, but if the team trusts that decisions are being made with the mission in mind, the team is better able to navigate change together."