Biotech, business, and public health – this entrepreneur has mastered all three

    Earning a master’s degree is a notable accomplishment. Earning three warrants a double-take (or perhaps a triple-take). We sat down with Fahed Al Essa to learn what led him to pursue these degrees and how he is using his interdisciplinary perspective to advance human health.

    Many famous entrepreneurs dropped out of college; you earned three master’s degrees. Why? 

    Perspective. I’m an entrepreneur in the wellness field, and I bring an understanding of business, health, and technology from my graduate studies. The goal of any entrepreneur is – or at least should be – to understand customers and meet their unmet needs. My company is a business using technology to improve health, so I feel uniquely empowered to design solutions that will make a difference in the lives of people living with chronic disease.

    So, who are your customers, and what are these solutions?

    At Dala Wellness, we look at patients with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic joint pain holistically. We are complementing their medical treatment with a solution that integrates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness, nutrition, and modified exercises—all in one program available at their fingertips. We are giving patients tools to manage their condition and address related problems they face in their life, whether it’s pain, stress, or even communicating with family about their needs.

    How do methods such as mindfulness and meditation aide in joint health?

    Mindfulness and meditation cultivate non-judgmental, present moment awareness. In other words, these methods teach us to be able to observe our present moment experiences, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, with an openness and a willingness to accept things exactly as they are. This is helpful for people who experience any kind of physical pain or limitation as it allows them to gradually accept their pain rather than feel an aversion toward it. The better we understand the mind/body connection through mindfulness and meditation techniques, the better relationship we will have towards our bodies, and the less resistance we will have to physical or emotional discomfort. When we cultivate a better relationship to our bodies, we ultimately make better choices, including healthy eating and physical activity. This ultimately results in better physical, emotional, and mental health.

    What kinds of results should your patients expect to see after using Dala?

    Patients who have chronic pain of any kind typically have a very negative relationship to their body and their pain. Through mindfulness and meditation, patients develop an awareness to how thoughts, emotions, and judgments impact their perception of that pain. All the ways they tighten, constrict, and tense their bodies when they are feeling these negative emotions only increase the pain. When patients can learn to observe and accept their emotions, such as anger, fear, or sadness, in relation to their pain, it becomes less intrusive. Patients are able to tolerate pain better, require less pain medication, and enjoy a better quality of life. In addition, a better relationship to the physical body results in making better choices towards overall health and wellness.

    When you think of treating chronic pain, you usually don’t think of meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. Are these methods legitimate?

    Mindfulness may have been considered unconventional 10 years ago, but with advancing technology in the field of neuroscience, we now have a better understanding of how the brain changes when we meditate. Research clearly shows the benefits of mindfulness, from better focus, memory, and emotional regulation to an increase in empathy, compassion, and acceptance. This research has made mindfulness a useful and practical tool and has taken a once ancient and highly misunderstood practice to the mainstream. We see mindfulness in schools, businesses, health clinics, and even correctional institutions. Mindfulness is no longer considered an unconventional technique and is widely used in many sectors of society, particularly in health and wellness domains.

    What does Dala bring to the autoimmune disease space that doesn’t already exist?

    Dala delivers clinically tested and evidence-based tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, meditation, and physical therapy for patients with chronic joint pain to incorporate into their daily lives as a complement to their medical treatment.

    A treatment regimen that is effective for one person may be ineffective for another because autoimmune disorders are still poorly understood. Using patient-centric design, we are able to incorporate real-time data feedback from our customers to design a program unique to them; this allows us to address the patients’ actual needs at the outset, rather than deploying a one-size-fits-all approach and hoping it works for them.

    By complementing existing medical programs with additional supportive therapies, Dala disrupts two industries at once. In the complementary and alternative medicine market (CAM), it can be challenging to access evidence-based information and working with providers can be prohibitively expensive; we harness technology to deliver research-supported services at much lower costs. Traditionally, the pain management market is a medication management process that involves patients starting, stopping, combining, redosing, and managing side effects. We believe that there are so many opportunities to support these patients beyond pharmaceutical treatments. Dala takes a truly holistic approach to help our customers heal.

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    • Tony "Disrupt" Delgado

      CEO of Disrupt Magazine

      Tony Delgado ( @disruptceo ) is a Puerto Rican-American software developer, businessman, activist, philanthropist, tech entrepreneur, and founder of Disrupt Magazine.

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