In the past year, Christine Sinn, our guest on this month’s Future of the Business World podcast, took to heart some recent advice about thinking like an entrepreneur in times of crisis. In an article on that topic, Wharton professor Lori Rosenkopf told us: “Being confined during the pandemic is a great time to practice empathy. How are others feeling? If you can put yourself in their shoes, understand how they are feeling and think about their needs, then it’s only a short step to figuring out how you can help them.”
Christine has done just that, using her months at home to learn coding and create a new app for scoliosis patients. In this podcast episode, Christine discusses her deepening connection to technology and to the health care-related community she hopes to empower and serve when her app launches in January 2021.
Wharton Global Youth Program: Hey, everybody! Welcome to Future of the Business World. Where we get to spend time with exceptional high school entrepreneurs from around the world.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth… we design programs, competitions and content that introduce students to all areas of business education while they’re in high school.
For me, business starts with people. Whether you’re exploring data analytics or investment banking, people are the unifying thread – the personalities and skills of the leaders that drive profits and change.
Our Wharton Global Youth team has met some interesting and innovative teen entrepreneurs…and we want to introduce them to you.
Today’s guest, Christine Sinn, is a high school sophomore from Virginia in the U.S. Christine is about to launch her first app, ScolioBend, to help maximize the treatment process of young scoliosis patients.
Christine, Thanks for joining us on Future of the Business World.
Christine Sinn: Thanks so much for having me.
Wharton Global Youth: I’m very interested to learn more about the community you’re building, but first…what is scoliosis and can you talk about your personal connection to this condition?
Sinn: Scoliosis is an idiopathic curvature of the spine. This means that doctors don’t know why people have scoliosis. The most common types of curvatures are S curves or C curves, where your back is shaped to look like an S or a C. In 6th grade I was going to my pediatrician for my usual annual checkup and my doctor noticed that one side of my back was higher than the other. So, I got an x-ray and was diagnosed with S curve high-to-moderate scoliosis. It was certainly unexpected and it resulted in a lot of large changes in my life. I was playing tennis pre-professionally and I wanted to be a professional tennis player. With scoliosis, I wasn’t able to play tennis anymore. Little did I know that having scoliosis actually set me on a very different path for my future. It set me on a path to entrepreneurship and to where I am today.
Wharton Global Youth: Wow, you were actually going to be a professional tennis player?
Sinn: Yes, I was training a lot; two or three times a week with a retired tennis coach. I had big plans, but now I have even bigger plans.
Wharton Global Youth: Was it disappointing to have to change course?
Sinn: It was very disappointing at first because I invested a lot of my time and energy into tennis. But also I think having scoliosis opened my perspective to everything beyond tennis. I was really focused on tennis only, but now I’m able to explore all my interests beyond tennis, so I think that having scoliosis is a blessing.
Wharton Global Youth: You began to think about starting a business this past summer when you enrolled in our Future of the Business World online course. What was the spark for you? What inspired you to start something new?
Sinn: I wanted to reach out and connect to other teenagers who are like me. Most teenagers have a phone, so I was thinking about making a phone app. In this pandemic, lots of people are picking up new skills and I was one of them. I started to teach myself how to code. I would watch free Youtube videos and I bought a $15 course that was on sale. I was thinking of coding the first version of my app but I didn’t know where I wanted to take it. When I went to Future of the Business World, I loved it, because I realized my idea and my vision for this casual phone app could be taken into a business and form a really large scoliosis community. I realized this vision of where I wanted to take my phone app and that started my larger project of ScolioBend.
Wharton Global Youth: What exactly is ScolioBend and how does the app work?
Sinn: ScolioBend is a company that offers resources for scoliosis patients as they go through the treatment process for scoliosis. We’re going to start off with a phone app, but I’m also hoping to include some guides and resources for everyday life with scoliosis. Actually, I’m almost done with the app, so the first version will come out in late January, which is really exciting. I hope through ScolioBend that I empower and connect teenagers with scoliosis so they can reach their full potential. I was really disappointed when I found out I had scoliosis because I had to stop my dream of being a tennis player, but I didn’t realize that would start the whole new journey down where I’m living right now. I want people to know that when they have scoliosis it’s not a dead end, but only the start of their potential.
The app is totally free. We recouped the cost through partnerships with scoliosis centers and hospitals. We actually are already featured by the National Scoliosis Center. We’re looking into other scoliosis centers, as well as The John Hopkins Hospital because they have a really good Orthopedic department. They made innovations in scoliosis surgery to make it less invasive. I’m hoping to pitch to them soon as well.
“The wonderful thing about tech skills is that you can learn them anywhere and anytime. If you want to get started and you’re passionate to help people through technology, then it really begins with one click.” — Christine Sinn, ScolioBend Developer
Wharton Global Youth: What has it required of you to take this idea from ideation to implementation? Did you have to create a tagline? What has been the business development process for you?
Sinn: A lot of times when I mention to people that I made a phone app, people think about the self-taught coding. There’s a lot of strategy and planning that goes into it beforehand. One key part of my business is that I wanted to have a mission. Our mission is Bent to Be Strong to essentially empower and connect other teenagers with scoliosis. I did a lot of strategy and planning even before I started to code. I thought about the competitive landscape, how I wanted to release resources and when, and I also did a mockup of my app to see how I wanted to include certain features and where I wanted to put them. That really made the coding process a lot easier because I entered this process not knowing how to code a single IOS phone application.
Wharton Global Youth: Do you have a story that illustrates when you began to feel like an entrepreneur? Do you feel like an entrepreneur?
Sinn: There wasn’t one really big story that made me feel like one, but there were a lot of small stories that made me realize I am one. I would be talking with my friends or sitting in class and I’d be struck with this great idea for ScolioBend and I’d write it down. Or I went to the stationery store one day and bought a drawing notebook, but I ended up using it as my idea and strategy notebook instead of drawing in it. I also started to be more of a problem-solver for small and large problems alike. One of my friends calls me Sherlock, which is a nickname I’ve grown to enjoy. So, I think day by day as I grow my passion to learn and then use what I learn to help my community, I’m starting to become an entrepreneur. The real entrepreneurial life is that you learn something new every day, and I couldn’t be happier.
Wharton Global Youth: I think it’s fascinating that while you’re building this community you’re also part of the community. It gives you a certain sort of empathy and connection to the people you’re trying to help. What do you hope to learn from the users of your app and what do you plan to do with that information?
Sinn: There are a lot of different degrees of scoliosis, so every scoliosis patient has a different journey. Some people naturally grow out of their scoliosis and others require minimally invasive scoliosis surgery. I was kind of in the middle. I had a scoliosis back brace but didn’t need surgery. I’m hoping to listen to the different perspectives that my users bring and offer different avenues for feedback and connection, so I can improve my app and support as many scoliosis patients as possible.
Wharton Global Youth: How do you see that playing out?
Sinn: We’re also thinking of having community-building events and exercises. In-person connection – or Zoom connection because of the pandemic – is really important. Before the pandemic started when we were in-person, I met with this girl in my school in 5th grade. She was recently diagnosed with scoliosis and she’s a dancer. So she was kind of concerned about her future dance career as well. I really related to her because that’s how I felt a few years ago. Talking with her for that 30 minutes to an hour made me realize that this app could be a reality. Her story was an inspiration for a lot of the features I want to have on my app now and in the future. Having user perspectives and making sure that my app is valuable to my consumers will be really important.
Wharton Global Youth: How will you measure the success of your app once it launches?
Sinn: Apple has a great resource for us IOS app developers called Apple Analytics. It measures the popularity of your app quantitatively and includes features like how often people open the app, log in or download per day. It’s a great resource for quantitative success. As for qualitative impact, I think that’s another major reason why I wanted to take this beyond a phone app. I wanted to be able to connect with scoliosis patients and help each person, so I’m going to offer a lot of avenues for feedback and for comments, as well as some community-building events for qualitative impact.
Wharton Global Youth: Do you feel your app is truly innovative?
Sinn: There are scoliosis support groups but there isn’t a single app that supports scoliosis patients emotionally and physically. When I realized that, it was one of my key self-motivators to keep going through the hard nips and bugs in my code. I realized my idea could actually make the world a better place and change the world.
Wharton Global Youth: What were some of the points where you had to get over those hurdles so that you saw this to fruition and were able to build the app?
Sinn: I think a key part is partially my lack of experience. The tech space is definitely welcoming, but I think there are so many resources that it’s hard to choose just one. Another key point that I wanted to ensure was security, so when I log in my users and have a database for their information for now and in the future, I wanted to make sure that was secure. I had to learn a lot of little ways and solutions to fix that. Honestly, with the tech life you’re learning every day as well. When I have major bugs I write them in my idea notebook and then research a solution individually and write it down. There are a lot of coding courses out there, but I think about half my coding experience was just researching individual problems and thinking about new ways to add it in. It’s a really big improv business, and it’s really nice.
Wharton Global Youth: I want to go back a minute to your self-taught coding. One of the most interesting things about tech skills is that you can pretty much learn them anywhere these days. You can go online and problem-solve, as you said, and do things individually without being in a classroom. Do you feel like you’ve become a technologist? How do you feel as a member of the technology community, which is still male-dominated. Has the technology space truly been welcoming?
Sinn: For my self-learning journey, it was a really welcoming space. If anything, there are too many resources. It’s good if you take advantage of it and make the most of it. When I decided I wanted to make this phone app a reality, I taught myself the basics of IOS app development with free Youtube videos and Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is a free forum where you can post your questions and people help you by using their expertise to offer solutions. So, I do think it’s been a welcoming space. There are less women in STEM and technology than men, for sure. The wonderful thing about tech skills is that you can learn them anywhere and anytime. If you want to get started and you’re passionate to help people through technology, then it really begins with one click.
Wharton Global Youth: How were you able to self-motivate and have the perseverance to stick with this?
Sinn: With COVID-19 and everyone staying home, especially with coding it’s a very individual journey. Sometimes you can feel like you’re in a vacuum and stuck in this space alone. For me, getting out and listening to the stories of other people is really helpful. Other people’s perspectives and experiences bring me back to the big picture and make me realize my ideas can help people. It keeps the spark going. It adds fuel to the flame; this idea that people will be impacted by my ideas is really inspiring for someone who is starting out with tech skills and as an entrepreneur.
Wharton Global Youth: What are your future plans for ScolioBend?
Sinn: The app and the website will be released in January 2021. That’s very exciting, please stay tuned. We’re also hoping to make future partnerships and release guides and resources for everyday life with scoliosis and begin our community-building events. It’s a bright future and it’s just the beginning. Honestly, ScolioBend will be a living, breathing project. That’s what I love about it. I can’t wait to see how both ScolioBend and I grow over the next few years.
Wharton Global Youth: One question I like to ask all of the entrepreneurs we interview on Future of the Business World is…If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Sinn: It’s hard to choose just one thing. I think I would continue to empower other teenagers to reach their full potential. I would also bring to awareness issues that people all around our world might be facing. It’s something that crowd-funding and credible news channels are beginning to do, but there are many issues of diversity, representation and financial and social well-being that go unspoken. Listening to other people was such an important part of my journey as an entrepreneur, so I would definitely change the lack of attention that certain issues get in the media. I would also encourage everyone to listen to the perspectives of others, because listening is the first step to change.
Wharton Global Youth: Let’s wrap up with our lightning round. Answer these questions as quickly as you can:
Something about you that would surprise us?
Sinn: I love to bake. It’s a hobby I’ve recently picked up during COVID-19. Making food is a way for me to connect with other people.
Wharton Global Youth: Do you have a favorite food to bake?
Sinn: I started baking because I love chocolate chip cookies and I couldn’t go to the grocery store and get some, so I’m going to go with chocolate chip cookies.
Wharton Global Youth: Cool tech innovation that you can’t wait to get your hands on?
Sinn: There’s a group of tech innovations that’s focused on brain-computer interface. You wear a headband and it will track your brain signals to play music when you want to or direct drones where you want them to go. Kind of sounds out of a sci-fi film, but it also has real medical applications for prosthetics, so I’m excited to see where that goes and I’d love to try one.
Wharton Global Youth: What company would you love to invest in?
Sinn: I would say Disney. Beyond the fact that I used to be a Disney model, they have a great multi-generational connection in diversity. Even with the pandemic when they had to pivot their business strategy, they found a way to bring people joy through digital entertainment, so definitely Disney.
Wharton Global Youth: Wait a minute, I’m messing up the lightning round again. What did you just say about yourself?
Sinn: When I was younger I used to be a Disney model. They had a show to encourage young parents with their babies called “Go, Baby!” and I was the female lead for that.
Wharton Global Youth: Wow! You truly are a celebrity! Okay, a product or service you consider a guilty pleasure?
Sinn: Tasty, a free recipe app for cooking and baking recipes. That’s where I started with my improv baking and I go on it every day.
Wharton Global Youth: The business person you would most like to take to lunch, and why?
Sinn: I would love to have lunch with Dr. Lisa Su, CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, and her focus on semiconductors helps PCs and data centers perform high-performance computing. What I love about her is that she makes good calculated risks, she sticks to those bets and she inspires others to join her on a journey. She really turned around AMD from being a declining company to being one of the leading semiconductor companies in the world. As a fellow Asian-American interested in business, having a business leader like her to look up to is really inspiring.
Wharton Global Youth: Christine, I wish you luck with ScolioBend, especially since it’s launching in January, and thank you for joining us on Future of the Business World.
Sinn: Thank you so much
Do you think Christine’s app is a good idea? Why or why not?
What does Christine mean when she says, “Other people’s perspectives and experiences bring me back to the big picture and make me realize my ideas can help people”? Why is this an important message now more than ever?
Have you had a situation or challenge that has forced an abrupt change of course in your life? How did you deal with it? Has it led to new opportunities? Share your experience in the comment section of this article.
I met Christine a few days ago through the Business Leadership Academy. And oddly enough, I was also diagnosed with S curve scoliosis! This changed my life in a similar way as Christine but differently. It did not take away my ability to play my favorite sport, but rather it changed every sip of my life – in a good way. The potential to have a worse S curve encouraged me to bend the curve straight. This was not easy. I realized every small factor could lead to a millimeter of tilt, so I began my way to recovery. I got rid of late-night tik tok screening on the bed, and it improved my sleep quality; I sat straight in front of my desk, and it increased my work efficiency; I figured the most proper volleyball hitting form, and it granted me more power. Now, my S curve has been reduced to below the concerned level, and I also earned a healthy life. What I really gained from this special experience is not only the ten degrees spine curve but also a life motto. When you take small steps towards the mountain top, be sure to also acknowledge the sparkling flowers on the way.
Nonetheless, the lonely treatment journey has been tough. It’s fascinating and amazing to discover such a platform that comprises a planet of scoliosis patients. As Christine said, different perspectives can provide valuable feedback and connection. This is very much shown in the team-building process in the professional business world. A good team contains skilled individuals who have the ability to complete tasks and work towards a common goal. However, a diverse team can really bring magnanimity and impartiality into the process. A platform like ScholioBend undoubtedly built a non-bias community with inclusion by merging so many distinctive perspectives into the development and execution stage. Every individual who makes up the community sheds support and light to form the luminous harmony. Support and love are mutual. It is Christine’s idea and initiative that aided all the Scoliosis patients on their recovery journey, but it was their returned encouragement and opinions that genuinely made ScolioBend a loving family. As a part of the world hard-hit by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, I believe the sense of community is more important than ever. With hospitals running out of supplies, people losing their beloved family members, and doctors working non-stop trying to heal the globe, it is mine, yours, and everyone’s responsibility to support the community. In such a vulnerable crisis, a simple comfort can assist a broken heart, a simple pad on the back will solve a sleepless night, and the powerful belief that we can get through the outbreak together as a community certainly will bring us to dawn.
Individuals are powerful, but a community truly fuels a universe of love and support.
Christine’s impact on the community facing scoliosis is remarkable. Oftentimes, when things don’t pan out the way we hope, we would naturally become discouraged and find it difficult to search for alternatives. Simply, it is our innate nature to stick with the things we believe we are naturally fit to do and look past the limits. But when being forced to put the brakes on our progress because of our physical limits, it is undoubtedly painful. Although in the case of Christine, she helps us realize a new perspective on what it means to have limits and embrace alternatives. We don’t always need to play by the rules of the game of life.
Christine’s willingness to embrace the perspectives of others conveys a strong sense of camaraderie and connection. In a time where Asian hate is on the rise, it is important to embrace the perspectives of others for a collectively larger picture and evaluate a potential way to bring change. Like many others, my experience back in my old neighborhood was no different from the waves of hate Asians are facing daily. My parents were immigrants who spoke English poorly and our neighbors took advantage of that to place all the neighborhood’s problems on us. During Hurricane Sandy, a large tree collapsed and crushed our backyard as well as three other neighbors’ property. The tree had one root under our fence and the rest was under the property of the neighbor behind us. When everyone came outside to talk about the problem, they instantly blamed us and told my parents that they needed to pull out money to pay for property damages and for the tree’s removal. It was frustrating for my parents to try to explain that most of the tree was not even originally on our property. As a result, the neighbors threatened to call the police and sue us if we did not pay for property damage. Our parents did not want my brother and I to get involved so they had no choice but to comply and pay the damage fees and for the tree’s removal. Despite being only 8-years old, it always pained me to witness my parents agonizing and constantly questioning why we were the focus of hate. Every day was unbearable for my parents. When my parents walked to work in the morning, my neighbors gave a stare of disgust outside of the windows. At night, the neighbors would bang on our door and leave harsh notes as my parents tried to hide me and my brother from viewing them. Growing up, I was often taught by my parents and grandparents to not speak out as it has always been of Asian mentality to not make our issues very public. However, when I witnessed the accounts of the people in the Asian community continuously being hated on since the pandemic, it began to make my blood boil. I knew I had to help out in some way by encouraging others to look past the norms and to start letting their voices be heard.
In a way, I relate to Christine in realizing my ideas can help people. Due to my intolerance for the recent surge in hate crimes, I began to brainstorm ideas I could help. I decided that I wanted to use music as a mode to encourage a larger audience to contribute to a fundraiser. In doing so, I got the opportunity to work with my music school in creating a fundraiser focused on supporting Asian elders. During the first two weeks before the launch of the fundraising website and a live performance, I worked with my team to set up these platforms as well as posters and a program. We also wanted to use the money from the fundraiser to buy supporting items to help protect the elderlies from any potential attacks. Since the fundraiser was mainly student-led, the work posed to be challenging as lots of research was needed and designing was time-consuming. By the third week, our team was worn out but we knew that we couldn’t simply drop our efforts. We managed to complete the designs and research, allowing us to begin spreading the news of our virtual concert and the website’s launch for donation. On the day of our concert, my team was successfully able to raise over a thousand dollars: a thousand dollars were given to CPC for their amazing work in helping out the Asian community while the rest was spent in buying a thousand alarms to give to Asian elders for their safety.
Since reading about Christine’s amazing effort to help out a community suffering from scoliosis, I was able to relate to her quote as hearing the news of the surge in hate crimes made me uncomfortable to sit and do nothing about it. In this way, I wanted to be involved in the bigger picture by contributing in some way to raise concern and the necessity to help Asians. Christine’s message holds lots of significance to the current issues society has been suffering from lately. Her words are the encouragement for us to know we can play a role too. Certainly, it is in times like these in which we can develop a community blessed with love and the aspiration to reach further.
After reading Christine’s amazing effort to help out the community suffering from scoliosis, I understood why the app that she is creating will greatly benefit that specific community. This is because everyone suffering from scoliosis can easily connect and help each other out resulting in them not feeling alone. Since Christine is passionate about her app, it is most likely to be successful as she is putting a great amount of effort into it.
I’m very happy to see my friend Christine featured on this podcast! I met her through the Wharton Global Youth Program, and we both bonded over participating in the Diamond Challenge. I personally got to learn about her love for coding during the Nonprofit Workshops, and she’s truly an inspirational person.
When Christine said, “Other people’s perspectives and experiences bring me back to the big picture and make me realize my ideas can help people” it reminded me about my personal passion for philosophy. Other people’s experiences can help bring us back to the big picture, but it can also help us view issues through unique lenses. Christine’s ideas of reaching out to different people with different types of scoliosis is very similar to the way philosophy functions, as most philosophical theory considers intersections between complex identities, and how to use this for good. Through this idea and Christine’s story, I made a connection on how we can use philosophy to become better entrepreneurs.
For example, queer theory could help Christine develop her app further to be more inclusive and medically accurate. When I read “In A Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives” by Judith Halberstam, I learned about how trans experiences like binding aren’t properly represented in the media, so many trans experiences are culturally invisible. This invisibility is dangerous because it contributes to a lack of accurate medical information specifically for trans people. After a quick Google search, I found no information from an accredited source for trans individuals who have scoliosis and want to bind at the same time. The lack of information for trans-specific medical needs is why many trans individuals may bind for over 8 hours a day, which can be very dangerous. We also have to consider that trans people face stigma in the doctor’s office and may not be comfortable scheduling an appointment and asking themselves. To help solve this issue, Christine may reach out to doctors and get accurate medical information about binding and scoliosis, which she can share through her app and blog. This information alone could possibly save trans lives.
Part of being an entrepreneur is about finding “pain points” and developing a unique product, service or business model to ease these pain points. But philosophy can help us understand that all humans don’t have the same pain points. A black, queer person will have different pain points from a white, neurodivergent and low income person, even if it’s over a common issue like scoliosis. Philosophy isn’t just limited to those who want to study business ethics, it can be very useful for entrepreneurs who want to create solutions which encompass all the unique and complex identities of our world.
Each year, around 3 million people are diagnosed with Scoliosis in the US (Johns Hopkins Medicine). It is a condition that affects 2-3 percent of the population and can force patients to change how they live their lives. In Christine’s case, it halted her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. However, Scoliosis helped her find a new community where she belonged, and now that community is benefitting from her work.
Her app, ScolioBend, connects teenagers diagnosed with Scoliosis and helps patients get the resources they need. She has effectively filled a void within this industry, allowing young people to get help through their modern devices. What Christine is doing here is a prevalent trend in entrepreneurship right now, using current technologies to create solutions to age-old problems. It is amazing to imagine the impact one app can make and how it all stemmed from one entrepreneur.
Christine did not start as an entrepreneur, but she embodies that role perfectly. She is constantly learning new skills and nurturing her ideas into bigger, more complex projects. At the beginning of this pandemic, Christine could not have made ScolioBend. It hadn’t even been an idea yet, just a thought she had after teaching herself how to code. It was a culmination of her newfound knowledge and that simple thought that exploded into ScolioBend. Her entrepreneurial journey is unique and nothing short of inspiring.
In particular, I am intrigued by how she is always thinking of ways to improve her business and is embracing the difficulties that come with this endeavor. Christine has incredible talent in this area and can identify the necessary steps to ensure the future of her app. Through her, I see the potential for ScolioBend to become an inspiration for more medical innovation.
On a more personal note, I connected with Christine’s response to a question asking how she was able to self-motivate, “With COVID-19 and everyone staying home, especially with coding it’s a very individual journey. Sometimes you can feel like you’re in a vacuum and stuck in this space alone”. She then said that listening to other people helped her persevere. As someone who suffers from anxiety and frequently struggles to get anything started over the fear of failure, I constantly feel like I’m alone. Like Christine, I realized that talking to the people around me inspired me to keep going.
Of course, Christine’s journey has not all been sunshine and rainbows. Scoliosis has negatively affected her, and its impact may not disappear for a long time. Despite this, her resilience allowed her to seize the proper opportunities and turn the tide in her favor. I am interested in where she will take ScolioBend in the future and I will be following up on this innovation.
Thanks for sharing your feedback on scoliosis. I liked how you touched on Christine’s life-changing discovery. I can’t imagine how she felt after being diagnosed and especially after her doctor told her to stop playing tennis. This moment surely changed her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. Her course in life took a turn but perhaps toward a path she would have missed otherwise. This more personal and focused road reminds me of what Robert Frost did when he went down “the one less traveled.” I agree with you that it seems that Christine has found a new community that she can belong to and can help. Like you, I also enjoyed reading about how she came up with a modern tech product that created solutions to age-old problems. I think it’s exciting to be part of this new generation of tech-focused, entrepreneurial minded problem solvers. With the recent spike in COVID cases, I have also been taking advantage of the internet and social media to learn new things. This summer, I’m currently discovering and learning coding through Girls Who Code. Coding can be tough, but with inspiration from a whole community of women programmers, I am motivated to keep trying. I hear what you’re saying about fearing failure because I don’t want to let down any of my mentors. But for me, every time I get that imposter syndrome, I take a deep breath and remind myself that every day is a good day as long as I’m learning something.
I think that what Sinn has done in creating an online scoliosis community and support system serves as a prominent example of how the technological world can work to society’s advantage. It can be shown that her app has helped not only patients with scoliosis, but also has allowed society to become more aware of their role in supporting these people. This provides a pleasant alternative to the negative side of technology. Especially with the rise of Internet addiction that many newer generations can be seen to experience because of the advanced world around them, it can seem as if these generations do not have the potential to be successful, However, the same social media platforms that these children use can also spread positive information about things that not everyone is exposed to on a daily basis. In this case, it would be scoliosis. With more efforts like these, people can familiarize themselves with the need to act against stigma and misinformation relating to misunderstood social groups.
As a scoliosis patient myself, I relate so much to Christine’s story. Scoliosis has affected my daily living, and ever since I was diagnosed with it, my mind has grappled with how this happened. I struggled to understand what the reason for my scoliosis was, only to learn that my diagnosis of idiopathic scoliosis meant that there isn’t a specific cause. Although scoliosis has disrupted my life, I am thankful for the opportunity to improve from this experience. Fortunately, I do not need surgery because my scoliosis isn’t the worst. I have been prescribed exercises to do everyday in order to hopefully better my spine curvature. Altogether, this ongoing journey has taught me to live mindfully, adapting to change and making the best use of given situations.
Christine’s ScolioBend initiative offers a way of overcoming the obstacles that scoliosis patients face. This is through empowering them within a larger community of people with scoliosis. ScolioBend has the potential to connect scoliosis patients in an effort to foster a positive outlook. This is what makes this innovation unique: its ability to shed a positive light on a profound and severe condition. Through the inclusion of scoliosis patients in a close-knit community, people can share their feelings, creating mental strength through support. When people are cared for, they develop a better mindset and have a boost in confidence. It’s the feeling that everything will be alright. ScolioBend reflects collective impact and the result of an entrepreneur using motivation to fuel innovation.
Scoliosis may not appear a dominant condition on its own, affecting 2-3 percent of the U.S. population. However, its effects are devastating on individuals who may have not even heard of it before. Overall, I view the use of ScolioBend as aiding the journey of scoliosis patients like me by lending a helpful hand. I see a clear road within digital entrepreneurship for its success. As the iOS app development market grows larger, the opportunities within this space are suiting for ScolioBend. Particularly, by offering a community of people, ScolioBend distinguishes itself from other existing scoliosis apps. I believe that Christine can take this idea further by incorporating feedback from patients to improve the app, releasing new versions on a monthly basis.
Additionally, Christine mentions the success of the app as both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative includes the number of downloads and the overall reach, while qualitative is more of the impact. In my opinion, equally important to the success of the app is how it affects the user experience. I believe that ScolioBend’s success should be measured through this. Are the needs of all scoliosis patients accommodated for? Is the environment welcoming? This is important because it all comes down to the mission of empowering those going through scoliosis by giving them the support and resources that they truly need. Furthermore, since there are different degrees of scoliosis(mild, severe), I feel emphasis should be placed on each individual and their unique experience. Whether they are undergoing surgery or are required to wear a back brace, the features of the app should be tailored to their specific situation. This way, the functionality of the app is optimized.
I fully support the cause that Christine has taken up, and I believe that this app can be expanded in multiple ways. In addition to helping measure the degree of spine curvature of a patient, it could track the improvement in the curvature over weeks, months, and the year. This can spark inspiration for the patient to continue working with the proper habits in order to gain results. Another possibility is strengthening connection through forums where scoliosis patients can share both their difficulties and positive results to as many people as possible, allowing for an open exchange of thoughts. Finally, having a guide for scoliosis patients on how they should go about treatment would help them feel confident about recovery.
At the heart of social entrepreneurship is innovating with the mission of helping society. As an entrepreneur, Christine is redefining the options of support that people with scoliosis have. The best part is the credibility and impact she brings. As a scoliosis patient herself, she has created a community of scoliosis patients that can only grow.
ScolioBend is a game-changer for scoliosis patients not because of incredibly inventive feats of coding, nor because it has already received the National Scoliosis Center’s stamp of approval, but because its developer is the app’s target consumer. Minority groups today complain that diversity campaigns fail to appeal to the targeted community because of major shortcomings in research and a failure to understand: what message does this group want to be sent? A popular example of a failed corporate attempt to reach a minority group is Target’s Pride Month collection, which has been the laughingstock of LGBT Twitter. The gaudy, eye-searingly sequined rainbow suits and overuse of ‘pride’ puns make it obvious that these items were created with shallow, movie-inspired images of effeminate gay men in mind. It fails to impact the LGBT community, whether it is how no proceeds go to LGBT charities or the lack of considerate research in their products.
But Christine’s operation is different: she knows this landscape intimately. While she might still need to do as much research as any other developer (even more, considering her fresh background in coding), she can draw from her own experiences to brainstorm what ScolioBend needs to be. Her longing to reach out to fellow patients, for more accessible treatment, or for a better source of support after her dreams of tennis abruptly ended are all examples of what might have inspired features of ScolioBend. Even if she is not a medical professional, even if she is not a pioneer in coding, her emotional connection with scoliosis will definitely give this app all features that patients could hope for. I know that I would have appreciated it as much, if a high school student created an app for the college application process.
As a student who has gone through junior year entirely remotely, there is a depressing absence of an emotional support system for students applying to college. There are an overwhelming number of resources for internships, program enrichment, and financial support– but regarding mental health, students are always, always given the same list of mental illness help sites and their guidance counselor’s contact information. It’s disappointing to say the least. It’s basically the Department of Education telling students, “if you need to talk to someone, it should be at the last stages of your mental breakdown.” And this is exactly what happened to me and so many other students at the end of AP testing. Crushed by what seemed like an unfair test when taking remote learning into account, I felt lost. I had just scrambled to finish at least half of my final essay for the AP English Language and Composition exam and thought, “What college would want a student that can’t finish a TYPED exam?” I was crushed, exhausted, and humiliated by what was the culmination of nine months of weekly essays and hard work. The thought of telling my friends made my eyes well up with frustrated tears for the first time this year. I ended up bursting into tears in front of my English teacher and was thankfully comforted by his reassurances that an AP exam was a miniscule part of my college application, but the point still stands: what resources are being given to students who need this emotional reassurance? Teachers don’t understand: testing standards have changed over the years, and they hardly understand the academic and financial pressure of college acceptance. I am extremely glad that Christine has created such an excellent program for her fellow patients.
Christine’s unyielding determination to bring improvements to the lives of scoliosis patients shines through the consistent effort she puts into her company ScolioBend. It was incredibly inspiring to read about the amount of care she puts into her project, diligently jotting down every new idea and consequently bringing them to fruition. Christine’s entrepreneurial action is extremely pertinent to the current state of global healthcare; people with disabilities (PwD) are experiencing heightened barriers to receiving affordable, high-quality healthcare. The neglected healthcare system across various countries not only provides grounds for stigmatization of individuals with disabilities but can also put their lives at risk. Reading Christine’s article, I realized that she and I share a common goal of aiding physically disadvantaged people in various ways and that we have taken a similar approach by creating an app.
The initial motive for my app can be dated back to an 8-year-old girl, sitting in a hospital bed, confused as to why her legs won’t move. In 2014, I was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a condition where the immune system of one’s body attacks its own nerves. In my case, the symptoms showed up in the form of leg paralysis. It took months and months of physical therapy to regain the ability to walk, but during the recovery process, I saw life from a new perspective: the perspective of a wheelchair user. My experience with using a wheelchair proved that even the simplest of tasks could be difficult for wheelchair users because our world was constructed for the non-disabled.
I remember a specific incident from my period of wheelchair use that seems to have engraved itself into my memories. This was the first day I was allowed to return to school after weeks of hospitalization, and I was excitedly going down the street in my wheelchair to the bus stop. I was so accustomed to the routine act of riding the bus to school that I completely forgot about the addition of a wheelchair. However, this addition became painfully obvious not long after my bus arrived. The stares from other commuters, the bus driver’s annoyed expression, and the incessant car honking sounds that came toward me all made me feel ashamed for a disorder I couldn’t control. For the first time, the gap between the sidewalk and the bus door felt wider than the Grand Canyon, and I could only look up at the faces of those peering down at me through the bus window. I will never forget the expressions of indifference, the avoidance of eye contact, and even the raising of phone cameras I was met with that day. How could the bystanders be so apathetic, when I was no different from them? Anyone else on that bus could have been in my place – struck by an unlucky case of GBS and unable to walk – and yet it seemed like they were highly unwelcoming towards this association between the disabled and themselves. In the following months, there were many more instances where I failed at the hands of a too-steep ramp, a too-narrow doorway, or a too-impatient stranger. This made me empathize with what 100 million wheelchair users around the world have to constantly encounter in their lives. I became determined to better the world into one that accommodates disabilities.
In forging the foundations for my vision to reduce attitudinal and architectural barriers for people with disabilities, I came up with an idea for an app that would target the absence of accessible wheelchair ramps. I started this project last year with the working title ‘A Ramp at a Time’ in hopes of making a tangible impact locally and branching out to related projects that would benefit PwD globally. The beginning of my project closely resembles the account Christine detailed in the article; hours on end I spent watching YouTube tutorials for iOS app development, trying to turn my vision into reality. After the first prototype, I refined my app countless times to ensure that the app was accessible, functional, and impactful. The end product was an app that focused on improving the accessibility of facilities for wheelchair users. With my app, users could put their phone on any wheelchair ramp to measure its inclination. If the degree of inclination was too steep and broke federal regulations, the users could report it to the ministry of legislation and flag the location within the app’s collaborative map. Once published, my app could have palpable influence by promoting real changes to problematic structures and forming a community of wheelchair users who help each other avoid the problem of unknowingly going to inaccessible facilities during urgent situations.
Frankly, the process of completing this project brought various unfamiliar challenges as I went through the stages of market research, target audience surveying, app design, app programming, and testing out beta versions of the app. I could completely relate to Christine’s experiences with debugging and searching for solutions from online developer communities. I would love to meet with Christine, as two female technologists and activists working in similar interests, to discuss our plans for the future of our projects and help each other overcome challenges along the way.
It is obvious that further research needs to be done to prevent or assuage disabilities and medical issues, but until those advancements are made, the best our society can do is to be more inclusive of people suffering from less common conditions. As someone who has suffered from physical impediments, I felt the pressing need for an innovative idea that doesn’t stop at merely spreading awareness about people with disabilities, but goes on to make a change in the larger issue that is global healthcare access. Harnessing my experiences with app building, I now look to become a leader in promoting the well-being of overlooked people in our society.
While I don’t have scoliosis, I have been struggling with spinal problems for several years. One side of my back is a bit higher than the other, mostly due to incorrect posture, and I often worry about it. I’m under a doctor’s care, and I’ve worn a posture corrector to try to fix the issue. It’s not something I talk to my friends about, mainly because I’m embarrassed. That’s why I found Christine’s story, and her app ScolioBend, so inspiring. While her condition led to her giving up her dreams of professional tennis, I loved her mindset that as an entrepreneur, “[She’s] able to explore all [her] interests beyond tennis, so [she thinks] that having scoliosis is a blessing.”
Although ScolioBend currently focuses on reaching out to those with scoliosis, I believe that Christine’s idea could be the foundation for a series of apps with similar functions for teenagers with “invisible” or chronic diseases such as hemophilia or epilepsy. Christine describes how her app will connect teenagers diagnosed with scoliosis and provide them with information and resources for how to manage the disease. Her comment that “I want people to know that when they have scoliosis it’s not a dead end, but only the start of their potential” is truly inspiring and expanding her app to reach teens diagnosed with other diseases could have a significant impact on many lives.
I believe this build-on of ScolioBend would be especially useful for teenagers struggling with conditions that are uncommon in our demographic. At first glance, it might seem a bit unimpactful. For example, according to the CDC, only about 400 babies in the U.S. are born with the blood disease hemophilia each year. JDRF also reports that out of the 1.6 million Americans living with T1D, only about 200,000 are younger than 20 years old. Despite these small populations, as cliché as it sounds, the worlds of teens struggling with these types of conditions could be completely altered. A prominent stereotype about the teenage demographic is that their peers are “vicious” and thus presents many with great difficulty to fit in. While it’s not as exaggerated in most scenarios, these youngsters are in a period of time where they are figuring out who they are, and peer pressure certainly increases the struggle of doing so. It’s tough enough trying figure out this confusing time and struggling to fit in. When adding in a medical condition that makes one seem so different from the others, it makes this time of their life so much harder, many wondering why they aren’t able to do certain things when their peers are.
If provided with an easy way to connect with other patients, teens diagnosed with these “rare” diseases would be able to be surrounded by a supportive, educating community. This is in contrast to what they might have experienced prior to using the app: alienated. An app would be a natural connection point for teens who are used to communicating using technology. ScolioBend would serve as a template for the series of apps dedicated to uniting teens diagnosed with different “invisible” diseases. Like in ScolioBend, age-specific advice would be provided for users on how to deal with the disease, as well as useful resources that could be more difficult to acquire elsewhere due to the sickness being rarer. The best feature, in my opinion, is the “connection” feature. Users are provided with a “safe space” to discuss and share their experiences with their diagnosis, and I think that could really help many teens realize that they are not alone.