Europe, Interviews

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor – CEO and co-founder of BOOST Thyroid

I left academia after I realized I can help advance science and human health through a digital approach. Simultaneously, I could continue working on my passion for improving human well-being, now augmented by technology. For me, this meant we could try helping more and more people.

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor is the CEO and co-founder of BOOST Thyroid, the world’s biggest community and solution for people with thyroid diseases, listed by Forbes as one of the 53 female-lead companies that are disrupting health tech. She holds a PhD in cancer immunology, has worked in academic research for 15 years and 5 years in digital health. Vedrana published research on digital approaches in health, she’s a public speaker on topics of female health empowerment and is one of the Nordic 100 – the most impactful people in the Nordic tech scene in 2018. Vedrana’s mission as a patient, researcher and CEO of BOOST Thyroid is to bring equality in health.

What role does technology play in your everyday life?

Technology has touched every aspect of my existence—it’s made my life and work easier. I can be in daily contact with my family and friends, despite living thousands of kilometers apart.

Because of technology, it’s possible to get information faster and simpler than ever before.

I work in digital health, so we’re maximizing the technology of today and contributing to technological improvements to build the best and most relevant solutions for people with chronic conditions. 

Tell us a bit about your journey, how did you get to where you are now?

I’m the CEO and a co-founder of the health tech company BOOST Thyroid. 

I’m a proud unconventional founder, I hold a PhD in cancer immunology and have spent 13 years as an academic researcher. I started cancer research because it profoundly impacted my life—my grandma died of cancer before doctors could diagnose and try to help her. I spent my academic time driven by the mission to help understand how to stop cancer from killing people.

I followed my passions and what I felt would be the best use of my time and capabilities.

Six years ago I left academia after I realized I can help advance science and human health through a digital approach. Simultaneously I could continue working on my passion for improving human well-being, now augmented by technology. For me, this meant we could try helping more and more people.

I followed my passions and what I felt would be the best use of my time and capabilities. That’s why I created BOOST Thyroid, a free smartphone app, and community for people with the autoimmune thyroid condition Hashimoto’s. 

What inspired you to start BOOST Thyroid?

I was at a point in my life where I could choose what I wanted to work on, the only prerequisite was for it to be impactful in the health sphere.

BOOST Thyroid started from a personal reason, I have the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s. In this condition, the immune system slowly destroys the thyroid by making it underactive. It’s an ongoing process resulting in a variety of symptoms including anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, “brain fog,” and fertility problems. I found no comprehensive solution that would help both researchers and patients (contributing to new knowledge and improving lives).

I knew that we had the technology to facilitate creating BOOST Thyroid, so I started doing what I love and what I’m good at. 

Today we are building a personalized machine learning-powered assistant while bringing patients and research together to create better health outcomes. 

BOOST Thyroid aims to help users and the medical community by providing scientifically vetted information, strengthening the thyroid patient community, supporting research, and developing new technological approaches to improve personalized healthcare as well as patient-doctor conversations. You can read more about us on our website www.boostthyroid.com.

In tech I learned the hard lesson – everything is possible, you just need to be able to negotiate it well.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

Everyone I interacted with in a meaningful way. The strongest influence comes from my family, especially my grandmothers, each in their respective ways—one taught me to persevere, and the other taught me to have thick skin.

A lot of influence in the last three years comes from people using BOOST Thyroid app. I’m humbled to hear their stories and be in a position to try to make a positive difference for them.

I’m also grateful for my stubbornness, perseverance, and passion. I don’t give up when I work on something impactful.

What is the hardest lesson you have learned as a founder and woman in tech?

The high price of not asking difficult questions. I think this is a life lesson, not a tech lesson. 

In tech I learned the hard lesson – everything is possible, you just need to be able to negotiate it well.

What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?

  1. Virtual health will emerge as a big winner – virtual health tech will augment doctors’ power, removing physical barriers to receiving health will transform and improve the lives of every person. Availability of information and accessibility of qualified professionals will bring equal health opportunities to everyone, especially needed by people with more advanced chronic health conditions. 
  2. AI voice assistance – AI solutions that understand, process, and generate natural language will make a huge impact in the healthcare. Patients can be triaged through an AI assistant, where they can ask and receive relevant medically vetted questions. This will improve the everyday lives of people with chronic conditions.
  3. Better wearable devices – they will further enable preventive management of chronic conditions away from doctors’ offices with a continuous collection of data on body physiology. It’s invaluable to have continuous stream of information collected on chronic conditions, compared to a mere snapshot doctor typically get every few months when patients visit their office. 

By combining these trends, we’ll be able to build integrative, lasting, and successful health solutions that can be applied across the spectrum of conditions.

What is the thing you’re currently most excited about? 

The future of BOOST Thyroid and how we can utilize advancements in technology—especially machine learning to enable early diagnoses of chronic conditions. 

I’m thrilled that our team is a part of the digital augmentation of patients’ lives.

Technology enabling us to reach our vision of developing individual preventive care management for complex conditions and early diagnostics for primary disease and health complications is super exciting.

Which job in tech, other than your current one, would you like to have?

There are many awesome and impactful jobs in the tech field. If I would not be doing what I’m doing, I would love to be an investor to help loads of cool unconventional founders to build amazing companies.

If you could give future generations of women who are interested in tech, one piece of advice, what would it be?

This advice goes for anyone in the tech field—no incredible career is meant to be easy, it’s meant to be interesting. This is what helped me:

  1. Staying on top of the things – tech is evolving rapidly, you must learn continuously.
  2. Persevere – tech careers are full of challenges, especially at the beginning when you might be challenged around the clock. It’s equally important is to know when to give up, especially if you work in a toxic environment.
  3. Focus – after figuring out what to do and how to do it, your focus needs to be razor-sharp as that’s the best way to deliver projects and preserve your energy. It’s challenging because it can seem you’re precluded from doing the next interesting step.
  4. Standing up for yourself – being your own champion as much as possible and letting your voice be heard.
  5. Have a good work–life balance – your job should not be the single thing in your life defining you. Keep your health in check and save enough quality time for your family, friends, and non-work related passions.

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor is the CEO and co-founder of BOOST Thyroid, the world’s biggest community and solution for people with thyroid diseases, listed by Forbes as one of the 53 female-lead companies that is disrupting health tech. She holds a PhD in cancer immunology, she worked in academic research for 15 years and 5 years in digital health. Vedrana published research on digital approaches in health, she is a public speaker on topics of female health empowerment and is one of the Nordic 100 – the most impactful people in the Nordic tech scene in 2018. Vedrana’s mission as a patient, researcher and CEO of BOOST Thyroid is to bring equality in health.

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