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40 Under 40

Commercialising research to improve the wellbeing of everyone

40 Under 40

Dr Joep van Agteren, the co-leader of SAHMRI Be Well Co, won the 40 Under 40 Discovery Award for his work on improving mental health through a program that combines health professionals and technology to provide solutions in a cost-effective way.

 

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Dr Joep van Agteren is the co-lead for SAHMRI’s first spin-out called Be Well Co. Launched in 2021, it is a commercial entity designed to commercialise seven years of wellbeing research being conducted at SAHMRI.

“We work with industry and community, over 40 organisations to date, to deliver mental health interventions and conduct research at the same time,” van Agteren said.

“Our solutions include mental health assessment for individuals and organisations, training programs and technology solutions such as a smartphone app.”

Van Agteren said years of research into their mental health solutions have shown their utility in dealing with depression and anxiety.

Their innovative approach does not rely on clinical resources and therefore does not cost the system or take away from their precious resources, he says.

The team of 12 has delivered mental health solutions to roughly 17,000 people, showing that it is possible to scale hybrid (human + tech) mental health solutions in a cost-effective way.

Van Agteren said that while migrating to South Australia from the Netherlands for love took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to develop new networks, he found that linking the cut-throat academic and startup worlds was a bigger challenge and took a lot of perseverance and determination to navigate.

“This [the cut-throat nature} opens opportunities for people to behave unethically to advance their own career, often at the cost of other, more junior, colleagues,” van Agteren said.

“Witnessing this firsthand, taking steps to address it with the company’s leadership and navigating the fallout was both one of the biggest challenges I have done and something I am proud of handling most.

“Leaders in high-performing teams should not undermine but protect and develop the biggest assets to any company: its talent and their wellbeing.

“It made me realise what I want to stand for as a leader, leading me to invest more in my relationships with my staff and colleagues, into finding good mentors and into participating in leadership courses.”

The Discovery Award is presented by Adelaide BioMed City and CMAX to a person who has led an innovative research project that has had a multi-disciplinary and business impact on the future health sector.

Van Agteren now joins the 200 alumni of South Australia’s 40 Under 40, a leadership network that is gaining influence across the state.

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