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Theralinq: About Us

Mar 21, 2024

On today's episode, we are talking about Theralinq.  You will meet the three people that currently make up the Theralinq team.  You are used to hearing from Brennan Barber, Chief Executive Officer, and Bethany Darragh, Chief Clinical Officer.  In this episode we introduce, Matt McDonnell, Chief Technical Officer.  Join us as we share about our vision for Theralinq and the events that led us here.

Brennan Barber  0:00  

At Theralinq, we're building products and a community.  We recognize that there's a holistic relationship between caregivers, patients and providers. Based on the shared experience of our team. At this point, we're primarily focused on pediatric therapy and chronic disabilities for pediatric patients, and doing what we can to improve collaboration making for better outcomes. With a clear link podcast, we're building community, we're hoping to share more stories of those involved in the disability ecosystem. Because we know the journey can sometimes feel long, lonely, and full of unnecessary hurdles. By sharing first person experiences and knowledge, our hope is that we can shine a light on a variety of resources that are available to this community, help navigate some of the hurdles and create a more equitable environment for any caregiver and therapist to access information needed to help ensure that every child regardless of their ability has the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

Bethany Darragh  1:28  

Today's episode is a little bit different. Because instead of interviewing somebody from outside of Theralinq, we're going to talk about ourselves. Will you share with our listeners a little bit about the product that we are developing?

Brennan Barber  1:41  

From a product perspective, we're developing the most comprehensive caregiver therapist communication tool on the market that promotes engagement and accountability around at home care plans, access to more data, and a repository of resources. With a fair link mobile app caregivers and therapists can better monitor patient progress with real time data points and goal cracking. Today, we've launched a user trial and are continuing to acquire customer feedback, we look forward to reaching more therapists and caregivers with his products in the coming months, and improving each child's therapy journey.

Bethany Darragh  2:16  

Yes, and to execute this project, we have brought on a chief technical officer, Matt McDonnell, who is with us today to share a little bit about his background and his heart for technology in this space.

Matt McDonnell  2:28  

When I first met Brennan, we were talking about other things. And what Brennan didn't realize is that, you know, in addition to my technology background, I have recently made the decision to kind of bifurcate my career and go into nursing. And so when Brennan started talking about what Thera Link could do, and what we were thinking about in terms of, you know, making things better for, you know, patients and their caregivers and connecting them with therapists. I was like, Yeah, you got me at Hello, brother. It was really that easy. So I've been looking forward to this conversation.

Bethany Darragh  3:08  

So start at the beginning, how did you get here?

Matt McDonnell  3:11  

I graduated from college with a degree in chemistry and, and it was kind of a, it was kind of an interesting, an interesting career arc for me. Because when I was when I was working in you know, environmental consulting and and that type of work, I was the guy that was always comfortable around technology, comfortable around commute computers, and but I wasn't really into technology for technology's sake, I was able to, I had kind of an instinct in terms of enabling computers to help us do our jobs. And so that's always been my, my perspective. So my career in consulting kind of dead ended, and my brother was like, Dude, if you're, if you've been developing software, go ahead and just throw it on your resume see thing when bytes. So then all of a sudden, I was a software engineer. And, but because I wasn't necessarily, you know, an engineer for engineering sake, was more of an enabler. I get into, you know, team leadership pretty quickly. And, you know, in my career has been, it's been interesting. I've been able to go from company to company, not necessarily by choice, but it gave me an opportunity to experience a lot of different things. And I've led a lot of different teams. But curiously along the way, as I've gone as I'm going through all these transitions, our son got sick. And my wife and I, we ended up being his caregiver of our proxy, I guess while we're in the hospital with him, he was in the hospital for a month. And so that we had a couple of instances where either a doctor or a nurse would say, so which one of you is the doctor and neither one of us so we just became experts in our, in our child's, you know, disease. So he's fine now is a successful attorney in Boston. So we came well out the other side. But Terry, because I had gone through some of these career transitions. And some of them, you know, one of the ICU nurses got a hold of her and said, Look, there's this great program at the Institute for Health Professions, you could become an NP, you know, within just a few years. So she's like, You know what, I can do that. So, now here she's the Chief Nurse exec over Duke Health. And, you know, it's been a, it's been kind of a crazy career for her. But along the way, as she's trended, as she's going through her nursing career, I'm seeing all sorts of the two of us are seeing all sorts of parallels in terms of the way she manages her patients, the way she manages her teams. And the way I was managing my teams, and I was, you know, I realized, after a while that the joy that I got from my job wasn't about the technology. I mean, it was about the enabling, you know, in terms of, you know, having software and having, you know, computer software, being able to enable users, but the joy I got was enabling people. So that's ultimately how I got how I made this decision to go into nursing. And then to have this opportunity to join all of you to, you know, have a technology solution, to be able to connect patients with their caregivers. It was just like, it was like a bolt of lightning. I mean, I just remember sitting down with coffee, and as Brandon starts telling the story about, about his son, and about his about his experience, and then he, he's telling me about you, Bethany, I was like, oh, I want to be part of this too.

Bethany Darragh  6:49  

Share with us some of the tangible outcomes you see from this app.

Matt McDonnell  6:54  

We want, we want it to be easy to use, we want it to be intuitive, but, you know, ultimately, we want there to be a we want there to be some motivation to use an app. I think that you know, as much as we take, we take our devices for granted. So we will like use them all the time. But oftentimes, we don't use much of the communication features, we don't use a lot of the live communication features, you know, most of what we use our apps for is to kind of get inside ourselves, you know, we go and we go into social media, and we kind of dive in, and we don't, you know, so then we use text messaging, you know, certainly to connect with people, you know, occasionally we use code, we have phone calls, I think I use phone, I think I use my cell phone for phone calls, maybe about two 3% of what I use my phone for, for a while, you know, and so and I think that's the thing is, like, you know, communication is a bit of a lost art. But it's imperative that in order for, in order for these patients who are differently abled, you know, we want them to have the best possible outcomes in terms of being able to actively engage in life. And in order for them to do that. There, there's, there's practice that needs to be done in order for them to, you know, get comfortable or to learn a new skill. And that requires practice. And that requires some level of discipline. So I think ultimately, what we're trying to do is return to use the new technology and use that the comfort of having a device in your hand. And, and kind of lowering the bar for that level of discipline needed for follow up. So that way, instead of having to depend on the only one that can give me the inspiration is my therapist slash coach. It should be you know, I the therapist, gives me that coaching, you know, that kind of that checkpoint every few weeks or maybe once a month. And then between those meetings, I do my own thing, because I'm working with my mom, I'm working with my dad, or I'm working on myself, and I've got this, I've got this app that that yells at me once in a while or I've got this yet this app that, you know, has this little game I can play and and it's part of my therapy and I'm I'm learning I'm learning a new thing, and it's fun and I get and I get a reward. 

Bethany Darragh  9:39  

I really resonate when you talk about communication in our society moving away from that connection and that communication, and I think it is hard and it is messy and it's inefficient to to connect with humans, but I'm reminded by a student that I encountered today I almost ran into her as I was walking into school. I was going fast, I had things on my mind, I was trying to be efficient, trying to get started, go fast, go hard. And I almost ran into her. And I stopped to see what she was doing. And she was standing in the hallway. And she had the biggest smile on her face. Because there was a whole line of cinder blocks that had nothing on them. No teachers were watching. And she knew she was going to be able to drag her hand down the whole hallway without any interruption. And she was excited, just in the moment, this was the best thing for her. And as I watched her, and I kind of put together what was happening with her, I just remembered, cinder blocks aren't my thing. But what do I need to stop and see and be present with and connect with today, and I just love that lesson to just slow down, maybe it's messy, maybe it's not the most efficient way. But it is the best way. And in our effort to streamline processes, and be an efficient therapist and see as many kids as we can and help as many kids as we can, we have sacrificed that connection, we are communicating with insurance companies, and we aren't as open or communicative with the parents as we should be. And I'm excited to give a tool that can help therapists do that.

Brennan Barber  11:20  

Yeah, and I was just gonna say that, you know, I think there's a lot of value too on the family side, the caregiver side is that it allows, this tool allows us to celebrate milestones. And I think for all of us with a child with a disability, specifically a chronic disability is that, you know, milestones look differently than they do for other children. And sometimes there's that natural inclination to want to mourn the fact that those milestones are somewhat different. You know, you're looking for normality, or you're constantly comparing with other kids in the neighborhood, that sort of thing. And I think that by having a tool that charts the progress that each individual child is making, having the ability to customize, and meet certain goals, and doing that together as a family, and doing it with the aid of a therapist, provides more opportunity to really, you know, forget about that, that little piece in the back of your brain that wants to mourn the differences and celebrate the differences and be excited about the fact that, Bethany, to your point, you know, you have this child with experiences the world in a different way. And that's such a unique and beautiful thing in so many ways. You know, to be a part of that, it's just just incredible.

Matt McDonnell  12:49  

I remember, when I was in high school, we used to always joke after we graduated, we had, of course, volunteerism. So as part of, as part of our of our, he wanted to graduate, it was a Jesuit High School, we were expected to do certain amount of volunteer work. So one of the, one of my volunteer jobs was, was over the summer between my junior and senior year, and I worked for a special needs day camp. And so I would put myself in the shoes of these boys. Some of them were older than me. But they just didn't have that they didn't have the, you know, kind of what we would consider typical, you know, cognitive abilities. And I would play games on their level. And I'd like my, my contemporaries would make fun of me. You know, what are you doing? Why are you playing the silly game, it's like, because they're havin fun. And I can connect with them. And they trust me because when they fall down, and they need help, they're gonna be they're gonna come to me, and honestly, I'm having fun. I mean, it's, you know, we're just messing around. And I think that, you know, it's funny thing when you were talking about, you know, touching the cinder blocks. And it's like, you know, we've all heard the term, you know, when you get a stop and smell the flowers will maybe go to stop and feel the cinderblocks to know and I think that there's there's an opportunity for us to learn because this this term normal is something that's become kind of a, almost a third rail type of word, you know, recently, and the reality is that my normal might not be the same as your normal. And so it's not normal versus abnormal. It's my normal versus your normal. And let me learn about what the difference is. And honestly, what we can learn from these young folks who are differently abled If we could, if we could learn how to help them communicate with us, and how we can learn to communicate with them, maybe then we can all start learning to communicate with each other across the board. Because Lord knows, I mean, these days, like no one knows how to communicate. And I don't know if and it would be kind of curiously ironic to use an app to, you know, encourage a deeper level, that richer communication, where we seem to be blaming apps for causing this, you know, communication rift that we have. So it'd be, it'd be a kind of a beautiful come around.

Brennan Barber  15:37  

Yeah, so where what I'm excited about is the evolution of this podcast. And as we build more community, we're going to be bringing in more individuals that play different roles in the disability ecosystem, and individuals that are advancing other technologies to benefit individuals with disabilities. And where a lot of this goes, is to Matt's point. And definitely, I think, to your point, as well about experiencing the world differently, but also, one of the things that we've been hyper focused on at home is identifying with my son, the key areas that he really strives in, and how we help to accentuate those and allowing him to be a productive citizen as he becomes an adult. And, you know, there's a wealth of opportunities in different fields, that technology will be his friend, and will enable him to have a, you know, potentially a work life that's not too dissimilar from mine. You know, and I think that expanding our minds to think about how we integrate individuals with disabilities into the workforce, because there's so much untapped talent that exists within these individuals that, you know, we are overlooking too much at this point in time. And I think, by building community by having more technologies that bring more, I guess, more or less, some of this, you know, to the forefront, we can focus more as a society, making sure that everybody's reaching their full disabilities 

Bethany Darragh  17:20  

Leveling the playing field a little bit. 

Matt McDonnell  17:23  

How did you end up with with Brennan and Elliot and why, how did this become so important to you?

Bethany Darragh  17:31  

So, kind of like your story, Matt. My story actually started at camp too. When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I applied for summer missions. And I thought I was gonna get placed somewhere exotic somewhere that required a passport. And I got placed in Mount Airy, Georgia, at Camp pockets, a camp for children with developmental disabilities. It was an overnight camp kids stayed for five days and five nights. And that, I was a little disappointed , I was, but I showed up. And I had the most life changing summer ever. I came back to school and decided, I've got to be an OT, I've got to go to OT school, went to the Medical College of Georgia, and right after school, went straight into pediatric private practice and worked in a clinic setting for eight years. Then my life changed a little bit, started to have my own kids and needed a new schedule. So then I started seeing kids in their home. And that's when I met Elliot and Brennan. They were one of the first families I started to see in the home. And then life changed again, looking at you COVID. And I had to shake it up again. I started working in the schools. And that's when I stopped working with Elliot and Brennan. Or so I thought because Brennan had a great idea. And I had to be a part of it. So here we are.

Matt McDonnell  18:55  

Well, that is a great story. 

Brennan Barber  18:57  

Well, to keep that theme running, actually my first exposure to working with children with disabilities was at a camp as well. So that's, that's really funny. So yeah, when I was an undergrad, during the summers, there was a summer camp in my town. It was a blended camp. So there were kids that were typically developing kids with developmental disabilities and really it was an opportunity for mainly for working families to give their kids something to do during the day during the summers we would take them to the beach, we would go to amusement parks, we would do educational activities with campsite, etc. So I enjoyed it. It was fun being outside. It was fun doing you know, just a lot of like recreational activities. I was very athletic in my younger years. Very active lacrosse Playa i Yeah. So then when I would go back school, initially, my first major was education. And I thought that I was going to be a teacher and work with children with disabilities. Somewhere along the line kind of got off that track decided law school was going to be a better path for me. So I majored in political science. And during my, my very, very brief and glorious athletics career in college. As I graduated, I wasn't quite ready for law school hadn't really given it much, much more thought, other than when I changed other than when I was my major. And I ended up getting a job working in professional sports. So my career path has been somewhat nonlinear. But when I was working for the NFL, I had a friend who was an attorney that launched an accelerator for startups. And that was very intriguing to me at the time. And I didn't quite know how I wanted to get involved with it what I wanted to do, I knew I wasn't loving the career path that I was on at that point. But had a passion for what he was doing. Long story short, ended up changing careers, got out of sports and getting recruited back into the sports industry that brought me to North Carolina. And then while I was working at that, that job, that's when my son was born. That's when you know, not long after we got the diagnosis, and quickly found that I would say my, the sports world schedule wasn't going to be very tenable for maintaining the proper home life balanced with therapies and just everything that was involved. And then I curiously decided to double down on making my schedule worse and decide to go back and get my MBA. So then, at that point, I returned to business school at Duke, and had a finance and entrepreneurship focus. As I was finishing I, as I was finishing my MBA, I landed with an entrepreneurial support organization, very much focused on supporting high growth, high impact tech and biotech startups, really, in the kind of venture capital tangential to venture capital, made a lot of connections to VCs, to fund these startups made amazing connections, both through that professional network, continue to develop some great connections at Duke and, you know, really found that not only now that did I have the confidence to launch something that I truly wanted to launch, but I really was finding myself having more of an inner peace that I was finally doing something that I was really passionate about and you know, doing something building something that I believe will very much help other children like my son help improve outcomes. And yeah, so that was kind of the genesis for Theralinq and really excited about the journey that we've been on to this point. We've made a lot of progress and really excited for what the future holds.

Do you have questions for our guests? Send your questions to info at You can also find us at our website at and on our socials with a handle @Theralinq

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