Shaun Lodder: 'I mimic neurologists'

| Mariska Roersen

What started out with an intention to replace doctors, resulted in a software program to help them instead. Shaun Lodder summarizes a tangle of data into a manageable frame to diagnose epilepsy faster and easier. Not afraid to take on an extra challenge, he wants to develop a business from it, too.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

Shaun Lodder is a man who wants to add real value. ‘It is my dream to make something useful that can be applied in daily routine.’ The South African has been working on easier-to-use software to diagnose epilepsy for almost four years now. ‘Believe it or not, but EEG recordings and their interpretations look the same today as they did 50 years ago. I wanted to know why. This new software combines different metrics and recordings in such a way, that it provides a quick overview of the situation in the brain. You still need to be a neurologist to fully understand what’s going on, but it does not take as long to diagnose a person as it used to.’

EEG is art

Shaun points at a screen, showing over a dozen horizontal, shaky lines. ‘You see how this line moves when this line also moves? It means that the patient opened his eyes and the brain reacted to that the way it should. I have a background in engineering and am not a medical expert, but after working on this for so long – and extensive consultations with Wikipedia - I have gained some insights into how I should interpret things.’ That doesn’t mean that Shaun is on the look-out to know everything. ‘I just want to bridge the gap. Drawing conclusions from these kind of recordings is a type of art.’

I-phone theory

Currently, 16 doctors are testing the software and Shaun is waiting for their feedback as a final stage in his PhD process. The first responses are positive. This is a good sign, given that Shaun is thinking about creating a business around this software after he finishes his dissertation. He realizes that he needs to get doctors to actually use it on a daily basis and he is confident to know the trick how. ‘I call it the I-phone theory. It can do a tremendous amount of things, but it is such easy technology that you can use it without studying it first. Doctors like pretty pictures, too. You need to make it easy for them.’

The PhD candidate is not looking to continue working on the project in The Netherlands, however. ‘I am really driven to go back to South Africa. This is one of the reasons why I want to finish my thesis in time. Just as important, I really wanted to see the outcome. I did my PhD because I wanted to learn something, not because I wanted to get the degree. If anything, the degree could even be a disadvantage in South Africa because you are easily overqualified. Perhaps that is subconsciously one of the reasons why I think about starting a business. If I can’t get a job, I will create one. I don’t think of it that simply though, but I am a stubborn person. When people tell me I can’t do it, it gives me an extra drive to prove them wrong.’

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