Matt Fritzie (ESTEEM '16)
When Matthew Fritzie came to ESTEEM in 2015, he found an education in business and entrepreneurship to enhance his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, a tight-knit network of faculty, students, and alumni for support through his career, and a graduate who shared his experience of spinal cord injury.
His capstone, based on the research of Prof. James Schmiedeler, evaluated the commercialization potential for a wearable device to predict and mitigate anger and anxiety episodes primarily for people with disabilities and others. The work leveraged ESTEEM lessons on the competitive landscape, customer validation, business entity formation, launch strategy, financials, and more.
After graduation, with the help of a Notre Dame alum, Fritzie became a product development engineer at Power NeuroRecovery, the manufacturing arm of the University of Louisville’s leading-edge Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. Its flagship device is a body-weight support locomotor training system for gait training individuals with neurological injuries.
“I was wearing many hats and implementing my ESTEEM training for a startup medical device company on a new frontier of rehabilitation technology for recovery from spinal cord injury,” Fritzie says. “Even though I did not have a lot of career or industry experience, I had some good influence on this company through what I learned in ESTEEM.”
Fritzie, who suffered a spinal cord injury years ago, eventually spent more of his time participating in clinical trials for an epidural stimulation device that with rigorous training therapies boosts physiological and motor function for better mobility and quality of life. This new recovery paradigm is branded The Big Idea primarily backed by the Christopher and Dane Reeve Foundation. He stayed in touch with Feranmi Okanlami, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident while he was at Yale School of Medicine and was a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2015 when Fritzie visited Notre Dame as a prospective student. Fritzie participated in Okanlami’s wheelchair basketball team in South Bend while he was at ESTEEM.
Last year, Okanlami invited Fritzie to join an adaptive sports program at the University of Michigan. Fritzie received a scholarship to study kinesiology-movement science for a master’s degree while playing wheelchair tennis. He moved to Michigan in January 2021.
“The people you meet at the ESTEEM program can set your path and provide opportunity for you,” Fritzie says. “It was a good experience. They did a good job of keeping us integrated and developing good relations with the faculty, students, and alumni. It’s amazing, the Notre Dame network.”