A Mechanical Engineer and the CEO of D-Rev, Krista Donaldson Shares Why Becoming a Mother Made Her a Better Person
Today we celebrate Mother's Day in more than 80 countries around the world including the United States. On this Mother's Day, as a Mom, I feel so fortunate to receive so much love from my two children and as a daughter and a granddaughter, to celebrate my own mother and grandmother - an amazing 4 generations of women. Also, on this Mother's Day, as a newbie female and mom CEO, I was honored to interview and learn from Krista Donaldson, the CEO of Mitera's first giving partner, D-Rev, for this special blog post.
Read on and be inspired.
1. You are the CEO of D-Rev. Can you tell us more about the organization? Why did you start D-Rev and what is your background?
Well, I’m an engineer by training – I have my PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford. And I’m a designer in practice. I’ve worked for several social impact company including Kickstart in Kenya, and Prior to D-Rev I served as a Diplomacy Fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), working on the reconstruction of Iraq’s electricity sector. I’ve been at D-Rev since 2009 and I love it. We are a nonprofit product design company, best known for Brilliance, a device that has treated neonatal jaundice in nearly 60,000 babies, and the ReMotion Knee, which has helped nearly 7,000 amputees walk again–all in the developing world. It is a really exciting time at D-Rev right now because we are looking at the next big health issue to tackle – research & development at D-Rev is a very busy team at the moment!
2. What does D-Rev stand for and what are its mission, philosophy and core programs? What makes D-Rev different/unique from other organizations working in similar field?
D-Rev exists to close the quality healthcare gap for under-served populations by designing and delivering user-centric medical technologies. It is our goal that our products will impact millions of people. It is our hope that our work will catalyze global change to make world-class healthcare more accessible for all people. D-Rev is currently focused on two medical technologies – Brilliance, a phototherapy device to treat severe newborn jaundice, and the ReMotion Knee, a prosthetic knee joint for above-knee amputees.
D-Rev’s differentiator is its commitment to the delivery of our products. Until it is in use a product isn’t considered to have impact in our minds. We work with partners at each stage of the supply chain to ensure a product is delivered in an efficient and affordable way, and we start the research for these partnerships very early in our design process. Considerations around supply chain constraints, import & export challenges, regulatory issues, etc. are all part of the delivery discussions that happen early in a product’s development. By having those parameters in mind from a very early stage we are able to design a system and a product that together can sustainable achieve our intended impact.
5. Tell us more about Brilliance. What does treating jaundice means to the babies and families in the developing world?
Treating jaundice is more than just saving lives. Severe jaundice can often also have a terrible outcome of brain damage, which can lead to a lifetime of hardship for a family, especially in the developing world. When we visit hospitals in India we often see wards of children suffering from cerebral palsy and while we can’t directly correlate all of that back to a lack of effective jaundice treatment, that can be a result.
Brilliance is a product line of affordable phototherapy devices. They use blue LEDs (read the blog post on why blue LED deserved Nobel Prize) so the effectively have a lifetime guarantee on the treatment light, as compared to the commonly used fluorescent tube lights that burn out every 10-12 weeks and require expensive replacements.Brilliance costs $400USD when sold in India; equivalent devices costs around $3,000USD.
6. What has been the impact of D-Rev’s newborn health program so far?
According to our best calculations, the devices have treated almost 60,000 babies, and of those, almost 50,000 wouldn’t have received effective phototherapy treatment had they not been treated by Brilliance. (You can see our full impact dashboard at www.d-rev.org/impact)
When estimating impact we differentiate between the sales and installation or fitting of a device, and only report impact from devices we know are in use. In 2014 we learned that there are particularly challenging aspects to gathering data about devices sold outside of India. To-date, over 1,200 devices have been sold by D-Rev’s partner, Phoenix Medical Systems, to almost 30 countries. We only report confirmed installations of 916 devices installed in 10 countries. We estimate our impact may be as much as 25% higher than what we publicly report for Brilliance.
"Becoming a mother made me a better person...being a parent, particularly a mother, is something that transcends culture and languages."
- Krista Donaldson
7. As a mother yourself, do you relate to the families of the jaundiced babies benefitting from your product? Do you think being a mother makes you a better CEO? Are there any principles and skills that you apply to your work that you also employ as a mother?
Yes – totally! As a mother I know I became more aware of how difficult it is for a family to have your child ill, to feel powerless to make her better. I had my daughter before starting to work at D-Rev and she had jaundice. I remember feeling worried and confused by what the doctor was explaining to me.
I’d say that becoming a mother made me a better person – I’ve found that I tend to step back and think more about the bigger picture and longer term, less focused on myself and the immediate. It has definitely made me more patient, and more empathetic. Also – being a parent, particularly a mother, is something that transcends culture and languages. I have a totally different conversation with people in hospitals when I show them pictures of my children at home – parent-to-parent has a common bond, a common language worldwide.
8. Can you tell us more about yourself? How old are your children? How do you and your husband/partner juggle all the demands of your careers and childcare?
I have a daughter who is 8 and a son who is 6 – and they are so different, but share our family’s silly sense of humour. My husband is a professor and he is an amazingly supportive partner. We definitely struggle with juggling like all parents – working or not. Another thing that makes a big difference to us is that we have a wonderful community in our neighborhood in San Francisco. Our kids have safe spaces where they can run and play with other kids in the neighborhood, and we have a group of parents that we trust to help each other out picking kids up from school if one of us can’t make it. That community is really invaluable.
9. Can you share with us stories about your pregnancy, breastfeeding and postpartum experiences? Do you remember where you were when you first learned about your pregnancy? Did you breastfeed? If so, can you share your experience with us? How was your postpartum life when you brought your baby home? How was your transition back to your ‘former’ self?
I used to work for the State Department on Iraq reconstruction, and I learned I was pregnant in transit to Baghdad. I remember the embassy doctor being somewhat flustered about what to do with me, and telling me to come back later because he needed to print out “advice” for me, and the printer wasn’t working! I asked if he could just get me prenatal vitamins. I was five months pregnant when I went home.
With my son, we were living in Singapore – and I knew right away I was pregnant because I recognized the nausea right way. My doctor there gave expectant mothers their ultrasound printouts in a folded card with mother-child artwork on the front. It was such a lovely gesture compared to handing me just the printout.
I nursed both children for about a year. I found it really hard in the beginning! But once I got over the hump, I loved it and was amazed by how productive and efficient our bodies are.
I think a lot of women want to snap back quickly, but I tell my friends to be patient, their bodies are doing a lot of work! It took me about a year – I struggled with sleep, and I used to say my brain wasn’t always firing on all cylinders, but I made it!
10. Will you share with us what you have learned so far as a CEO who is also a mother?
I think all of us are very efficient with our time.
I’ve also learned is how important human relationships are – this is true in the work environment, but also in life. Children, as they grow, are constantly testing and trying new and old relationships. To me, having a community of friends to talk about parenting is also important.
11. What drives you and motivates you?
Knowing that there is suffering that could have be avoided – that there are actions we can take, things we can do that gives every child, every person the greatest possible opportunities in life.
12. Why work with Mitera in raising awareness and funds towards improving newborn health?
I love and share Mitera’s commitment to product quality, thoughtfulness and support of mothers everywhere.
Mitera’s support of mothers and newborn health is a commitment to humanity.
13. What’s next for D-Rev?
We have developed a prosthetic knee (ReMotion) and it launches this summer!
While it is a very different product – it also impacts mothers. Disabled children often need a great deal of care, and across the world, it is often mothers who provide that. Remobilizing a person, gives greater agency not just to the patient, but their families – most often their mothers.
14. Mother’s Day Messages to other working moms.
Happy Mother’s Day! All moms are working in some capacity – it is the nature of parenthood. One thing I’ve learned is not to feel guilty about taking some time on my own – most of us need it, and it makes us healthier and happier. And that’s also the best thing we can do for our kids since I know it makes me a better parent.
15. A fun question – what do you really want for Mother’s Day?
For my kids to jump in and snuggle with me when we wake up. It’s my favourite thing in the world – especially because they often also tell me all sorts of things and there is lots of laughing.
Thank you so much, Krista!!!!