Graduate student wins PITCH U competition with water filtration system

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Abigail Winternitz

Shanice Cheatham, a graduate student in the College of Public Health, recently took first place in the Burton D. Morgan Foundation PITCH U elevator competition with her Endemic Filtration Portable Water System.

Originally working to become an orthopedic surgeon after she completed her undergraduate degree in cellular and molecular biology at Kent State in 2013, Cheatham changed her focus of study to health policy and management after nearly losing her father to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a type of staph bacteria resistant to antibiotics that infects those in healthcare settings.

She now has a passion to stop the spread of diseases.

“It just changed my world,” Cheatham said. “I started researching with the doctors to try to figure out, at the time, what was wrong with him, and I just realized that this is what I needed to be doing.”

Cheatham said her product will help healthcare professionals in undeveloped countries with limited water sources to use the backpack-style filtration system to treat patients.

“Say medical personnel need to wash a wound and run out of saline, or a person needs to wash his hands. They can use my product for that and in other ways,” Cheatham said. “It all depends on what a person needs it for.”

Cheatham has been focusing on product use in underdeveloped countries and plans to market her product both domestically and globally, but she said believes her product will most benefit medical missionaries abroad.

“As Americans, most of us don’t realize what it’s like to go without continuous access to clean water,” Cheatham said. “But people who have volunteered in the medical field in underdeveloped countries, they get it. It’s not something that can ever be taken for granted.”

Mark James, a professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology, is optimistic about the possibilities that Cheatham’s invention has for global health as a whole.

“Water sanitation is a huge aspect of global health,” James said. “Most countries throughout the world, especially low and middle-income countries, could stand to benefit from the product (Cheatham) is developing.”

Cheatham is also the founder and CEO of Endemic Solutions LLC, which she created in November 2015. The company develops the filtration system and has a focus on charitable global health work.

Kent State’s LaunchNET helped Cheatham develop her product and company for the past two years, according to LaunchNET venture advisor Tabitha Martin.

“We’re so proud of everything (Cheatham) has accomplished,” Martin said. “She has grown so much from where she first started with us, and I have no doubt that she will accomplish amazing things in the years to come.”

After graduate school, Cheatham plans to purse a doctorate of medicine and philosophy and become a medical missionary.

Abigail Winternitz is the College of Nursing and public health reporter, contact her at [email protected]