Merging Family with Applied Science: My Diabetes Story
Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by many family members who have fought or are currently fighting diabetes. I’m from Vietnam, where education on healthy lifestyles and an emphasis on preventive health is almost nonexistent. In my culture we consume white rice, French baguette as a main dish, and sugar cane Coke — which is as common as water. Partially because of this, along with genetics at play, my mother was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes almost a decade ago. Three years later, her older brother (my uncle) endured kidney problems and passed away from diabetic complications. Meanwhile, my other aunt and uncle on my mother’s side are both prediabetic and at serious risk for developing the disease.
The distance from my family — and their health — is hard. One way I stay connected to them (aside from visits across oceans and conference calls) is through my company, Bonbouton, a preventive medicine startup that is currently focused on developing products for diabetic patients. This decision to focus first on diabetes was solidified when the disease made its way even closer to home: My wife developed Gestational diabetes in the U.S. when she was pregnant with both of our boys, now 7 and 2.5 years old.
Bonbouton is developing a smart insole that can detect foot ulcers in diabetic patients before they form, reducing the risk of amputation. (200 people a day lose a toe or a foot due to diabetic-related ulceration.) I developed and patented the insole’s sensing technology in school while pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering.
Throughout my life, in addition to family, I’ve always been motivated by applied science. I never excelled in scientific research but was always interested in how to apply science to various applications and figure out ways to inject the technology into products that help people. Watching my mother, aunts and uncles, and wife battle diabetes was a driving force for me: I wanted to figure out a way to tie the two together.
Another life changing event occurred in 2015 was my dad passed away from stage 4 colorectal cancer, a disease the doctors caught too late. Enough was enough: I didn’t want to see anyone get diagnosed too late anymore. I wanted to commit to preventive health, early detection, and patient empowerment. I wanted to create sensing tools that help people better understand their health so they can take action and maintain wellbeing.
In fact, that’s the exact vision of Bonbouton: to sense the invisible and enable every human to live a healthier life.
Although there are several causes for the different types of diabetes, being autoimmune, inflammation, lifestyle, and genetics —the symptoms and complications remain similar, and that is what we care most about.Whether Gestational, Type 1, or Type 2, they each render similar lifestyle issues: one when you’re wondering what’s going on inside your body. When there’s so much to maintain, so many boxes to check. Having developed the empathy from my family, I wanted to build my life and career around sensing and healing. The way forward for me is my work as an entrepreneur with Bonbouton.