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NIH Funded Physician Wants To Rethink Pain Relief, A Founder’s Story with Dr. Amy Baxter

Dr. Amy Baxter directs innovation, invention, operations, and strategy for Pain Care Labs. After graduating from Yale University and Emory Medical School, as a double-boarded pediatric emergency physician, Dr. Baxter founded PEMA Emergency Research while also founding Pain Care Labs (initially called MMJ Labs). Her contributions to science include creating and validating a pediatric pictorial nausea scale for nausea research, creating a liver enzyme algorithm to time abusive abdominal injury, creating the M-Stim platform for external pain relief, and extensive NIH scientific review group work. Accomplishments include pain and sedation textbook chapters, publications, national and international invited lectures, and testimony before HHS on the impact of needle fear on vaccination adherence; innovation impact comes from multiple NIH SBIR Fast-Tracks and patents developing Buzzy, VibraCool, and Duotherm pain relief and opioid-sparing devices.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. We had very little money, but I was both a future physician and entrepreneur from the start. I’d sit on the stoop outside our house with a bottle of mercurochrome, hoping if someone got hurt they’d do it near me so I could spring to the rescue. In addition to incorrigibly seeking coins under vending machines and couch cushions, I also was a very early door-to-door saleswoman. At around age 4, my parents found me outside another apartment with a painted rock or page of a coloring book, trying to make an art sale. I did junior achievement and went to NAJAC in high school, but was still oriented to medical school. I went to Dartmouth after a series of successful JA companies, but when I realized freshman year I still wanted to be a physician, I transferred to Yale, then went to Emory for medical school. I did take a brief stint working in NYC for Kaplan Test prep before residency but never intended to leave the practice.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Before there were Pain Care Labs, there was my first product Buzzy. I designed Buzzy to help alleviate the fear of needles in children and adolescents. Buzzy came about because of my experience as a pediatric emergency room physician. Buzzy uses proprietary technology that I invented that allows for a different frequency of mechanical oscillation that can be used by people of all ages to help block pain, but specifically for injection pain in kids. Buzzy was featured on Shark Tank and although I didn’t get the deal I wanted with Barbara, I was able to turn down deals from the other sharks’ offers. As my goal had been to bring attention to the issue of needle phobia, I felt it was a success. One of the reasons I felt comfortable walking away from a deal on Shark Tank was that Buzzy had already entered into a partnership with Quest Diagnostics. This led to over 5000 hospitals and doctors’ offices using Buzzy for lab draws and injections; From Buzzy, Pain Care Labs was born in 2006 in order to qualify for Government grants from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH funding led to the discovery and research of widespread needle fear, the critical components of pain, and an entirely new platform for natural effective pain relief. Following Buzzy and the NIH-funded research, I continued on my path to help relieve pain, but this time for adults who live with pain for any number of medical reasons. VibraCool is FDA-cleared to control pain safely and effectively and can be used on multiple parts of the body including the knee, back, shoulder, and head. VibraCool uses thin freeze-solid ice packs to reduce inflammation and combines them with high-frequency focal muscle vibration, which in turn increases blood flow to accelerate healing. My patented M-Stim technology, used in VibraCool, has been tested in over 50 clinical trials and consistently demonstrates real pain relief. Currently, I am being funded by the NIH NIDA to adapt my pain relief technology to reduce opioid use for low back pain. My goal is to help reduce the reliance on opioids and hope to continue research and development in that area
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Fall in love with the problem, not your solution. I thought I had a solution to needle pain. The real problem was pain, and the solution had to grow to fit the issues we found.
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