Touro Trained Occupational Therapist Works to Improve Hand Therapy
Alumna Chavi Perelman Combines OT Training and Entrepreneurial Spirit to Help Patients Suffering from Hand-Related Injuries
Hand therapy is a specialty practice area of OT used to treat orthopedic-based upper-extremity conditions, with the goal of improving the functioning of both the hand and arm. After graduating from The School of Health Sciences of Touro College in ‘14 with an MS degree in OT, alumna Chavi Perelman saw a glaring need for a more comfortable and affordable hand splint. We recently caught up with Perelman, who works full-time as a certified hand therapist in Maryland, about why she’s passionate about OT, why she made the pivotal decision to co-found her new company, Hook Splint, and the advice she’d give to someone interested in entrepreneurship.
Why are you passionate about OT?
I love seeing the positive results from helping people in real-time. To me, OT is all about finding out what’s hard for my patients and then figuring out techniques to work on so they can live a better life. I’ve always been drawn to hand therapy, specifically the medical part of it. After learning about anatomy and splinting from Touro Professor Dr. Debby Schwartz, I realized that it’s almost like doing arts and crafts on the job, which combines my passions for OT and crafting something out of nothing.
Congrats on recently launching your company, Hook Splint! As co-founder, what is your mission?
Our mission is to help hand therapists do their job faster and more efficiently to better serve their patients. Initially, our focus was to re-invent the Relative Motion Orthosis (RMO), which is used in treating a variety of hand conditions. An RMO is a splint that places one finger relatively extended or flexed compared to the adjacent fingers. After identifying a number of problems with the current RMO options, ranging from the high cost to the materials used being uncomfortable, I started thinking about how to improve these splints in every way and that quickly became the focus of Hook Splint. While spending some quality time at home with my daughter, she ran up to me with a bracelet she had made with pipe cleaners. I started to play around with it and realized that this concept of flexible metal could be used to reinvent the RMO. She served as my inspiration and that was the catalyst for the development of the Hook Splint RMO, which is currently patent pending.
Can you tell us a bit about your product and how it stands apart from other splints currently on the market?
I am fortunate to work closely with a top hand surgeon, Dr. Harrison Solomon, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dr. Solomon had been ramping up his referrals for RMOs and after hearing complaints about the current RMOs from both patients and therapists, he mentioned to me that there had to be a better alternative. I came to him with my daughter’s pipe cleaner bracelet - turned splint and we decided to partner in this venture. We agreed that there had to be a better, simpler, and more comfortable way to create custom splints. Our silicone coated bands are easy to make and are ready to use out of the bag, as no heat is required to mold it like the alternative options. In turn, this option saves OTs time and money. The splint is also much more comfortable than current materials on the market and I would compare it to the feel of an Apple Watch band or silicone ring. The debut of our product has led to greater patient satisfaction and ultimately, better results for rehabilitation. In fact, our patients are wearing their splints much longer as they are don’t have to deal with skin irritation since the Hook Splint is much more hygienic than what is now on the market. Currently, we have distributed thousands of Hook Splint RMOs.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
Never be afraid to ask experts for help when it’s needed and ask as many questions as you feel are necessary until you receive the critical information you’re seeking. Don’t get frustrated when things take longer than expected and just get started! Our process took two years in total, from our original idea to product development and launch. Now, we’re selling our product across the U.S., as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K., and Europe. It’s important to understand that you could decide something at the beginning of the process that you will end up backtracking on in the future. Remember that this is normal. Don’t get discouraged as every setback is a learning opportunity. Also, fully testing a product to gain feedback from potential customers is a vital part of completing your due diligence.
What vital skills did you learn in the Touro classroom that you’re now leveraging in your business?
Touro provided me with the key splint-making skills that have proven to be incredibly important as I brainstormed ideas surrounding my new product. As the OT program includes Papier Mache, woodworking, and sewing in its curriculum, it really forces your mind to think like an engineer so you can look at a situation from all angles to find the ideal solution. Touro underlined the need for ongoing creativity in this field –whether it’s creating something from scratch or taking something already being used and tweaking it to improve your patients’ lives and ability to function successfully.