Upon learning about the new tech start-up, Global Surgical Society, SSN spoke to founder Alinda Jansen about the story behind PONSIST
After almost two decades of working closely with surgeons from all specialties, and because the list of reported scandals in the tech industry led by Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook) is a never ending story, Alinda Jansen, a native Dutch residing in Dubai, decided to take matters into her own hands and created PONSIST. A worldwide professional platform for verified surgeons, it encourages them to inspire each other, share experiences and techniques, improve the surgical act and leverage overall healthcare conditions.
The term PONSIST combines PONS, which originates from Latin and translates to ‘bridge’ or ‘passage way’. It’s also used to describe a bridgelike formation connecting two disjoined parts of a structure or an organ. The suffix -IST is used in the English language to describe ‘one who’ or ’a person who does’.
Combined together it creates the new word, PONSIST, given it the meaning along the lines of ’The one who creates bridges’.
In today’s world, you may waiver away your rights to personal content and privacy in just one click, however it is the same world of endless online possibilities. As for the domain of surgeons, their options were quite underdeveloped.
Driven by a congenital passion for surgery and outraged by the lack of respect for privacy in the online world, Alinda put two and two together and took matters into her own hands when she pledged to make a positive change – now running her business based on honesty and old fashioned respect for privacy.
“I wanted to do something positive for all surgeons in the world. I’ve been lucky to have dealt with surgical specialists in many different countries and I’m aware that it takes a lot to be a surgeon, especially in current times, requiring maximum performance in minimum time, with ever increasing hours spent on the administrative burden.
“There weren’t many digital solutions for surgical specialists to come together and share insights, especially not on a global level,” she explains. “The landscape was marked by online tools, either owned or heavily sponsored by the medical industry, leaving them at least somewhat biased. Platforms bringing higher scientific value are mostly initiated by doctors experiencing similar frustrations, but they don’t seem to reach their full potential due to lack of proper development and promotion. It inspired me to come up with a positive solution on a global quest for knowledge.”
PONSIST hits home when it comes to being private and is tailored to the demanding needs of surgeons. Connecting all surgeons on the globe is a massive task with many variables to consider.
“There’s a lot of overlap in (sub)specialties around the world. Take spinal surgery as an example, this is the area of expertise of orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, but a trauma surgeon can also specialise in spine. There’s a grey area and it differs per country, sometimes even per hospital. They’re all spine specialists, but they bring different angles with different backgrounds. It’s quite complex when you think about it.
“I found a way to cross link those surgeons and bring those differences together.”
Alinda has a track record when it comes to understanding the people that hold a scalpel and she knows about the challenges they encounter. Having visited countless theatres and spent numerous ‘down time’ hours chatting with surgeons, she felt the desire to do something positive with her experiences.
“I’ve had an interest in the medical field for as long as I can remember. As a child of only three my favourite book was a medical encyclopedia. I spent hours trying to figure out the human anatomy. Ever since, I’ve been learning as much as I could, I still do. It was inevitable that I ended up in this field professionally”, she states.
Apart from being a medical enthusiast, she’s a charismatic speaker and a natural challenger too. This brought her professional career towards sales with some of the biggest players in the medical industry.
“Much to the frustration of several managers, I’ve never been one to be driven by monetised targets. Instead of implementing the latest slick sales models, I chose to have genuine conversations. I am a firm believer that life is in fact sales, any conversation needs to lead somewhere and that is never a one-way street. My favourite way of getting a levelled discussion started was to organise a ‘Three Course Discussion’.
“I’d get a group of surgeons together for a meal and had one topic to discuss per course. I’d choose enticing topics that challenged the Golden Standard, or something that was trending at that moment. Anyone joining would go home that evening with new insights and a full belly. I believe it was this behaviour that made me a successful sales woman’”
A few years ago, Alinda relocated to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to pursue her career as a trainer for a multinational in orthopaedic devices. In this position she covered a huge part of the world.
The knowledge she gained from meeting many different people gave her tremendous insights into the world of surgery and formed the last bit of fuel she needed to change her course. She managed to interview hundreds of surgeons about her ideas, which led to the same outcome every time. Outcomes that supported her thoughts on how information is shared within the surgical world and what could be done to improve it.
“Centralisation was key. I needed time to focus on developing my plans, so I quit my job to be able to dedicate all of my hours to creating a positive change. Surgeons are taking to the internet more each day, but until recently the tools weren’t ideal for their needs.”
PONSIST has the advantages of regular social media, but lacks the public audience and the selfish executives. What’s left is a safe, secluded area where surgeons from all nations collaborate, share insights, raise questions and learn from each other with functions that are tailored to how a surgeon thinks and operates.
There’s no need to create your own network of connections because you’re immediately in with the right crowd that takes you farther then anything you could establish by yourself. As soon as you have gone through a strict, unautomated verification process, you are connected to every specialist present that shares your expertise.
The platform has a familiar feel to it, you have a content-fed timeline and the option to appreciate the work of peers with a wax seal for professional courtesy. In addition, this system comes with a second timeline called Affiliations. It’s intended to set up easy cross-border collaborations.
“Especially in spine surgery, evidence as well as consensus is spread rather thin. Take lumbar disc herniations for instance, it’s the most common pathology for spine surgeons, yet the benefits of early surgical intervention weren’t proven until they were documented in a randomised control trial in 2007.
“Making it easy to collaborate across nations will not only extend your individual reach, but you’ll also be able to tap into a much larger patient population. This eventually leads to shorter trial times and qualitative outcomes. In my book that is a direct advantage for all spine surgeons.”
Where all professional and social platforms use a certain business model, PONSIST differs when it comes to funding maintenance and development. The creation of a fresh business model finds its origin in early 2018, a year marking a watershed in the history of social media and personal data with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandal.
“I was appalled when I heard about that. It wasn’t the first scandal, but it was by far the biggest. That’s why I came up with a different and honest scheme. PONSIST doesn’t use any outside funding, leaving it non commercial, it’s fully autonomous, like a biotope.”
With this business model the real stakeholders are the specialists themselves. It is a straightforward and sociable set up where members carry a tiny piece of the financial burden. Support costs translate roughly into three pounds a month, eliminating every need to track behaviour, collect data and sell it.
“I haven’t installed any cookies apart from the ones you need the make a website run smoothly, and I’m not going to. Why should I? The only reason I’m doing this is to create a positive change and to help the ones that help so many. And in the process of chasing this personal desire, I’m also challenging the tech giants of the planet. That gives me every reason to push forward.
“I understand the wish to try things out first, especially if it’s brand new, so all applicants enjoy a free, no risk 30-day trial to start with. I’m certain this is enough time to experience the power of PONSIST.”
When it comes to having a clear vision, as well as expertise in the field and passion for privacy and honesty, Alinda seems to be mastering it.
For more details on PONSIST, visit https://www.ponsist.com
Alternatively, you can reach out to Alinda through her profile on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alindajansen/