Sterile Technology

Building a case: Medical student creates sterile phone case for the operating room

Robert Zondervan, OMS IV, combines medical knowledge with business acumen to take his idea from vision to reality.


Two years ago, a surgeon asked Robert Zondervan, OMS IV, to record a surgical procedure he was observing. After struggling to obtain a camera angle that allowed full view of the operative field, Zondervan decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I kept thinking how much easier it would be if there was a safe way to use a smartphone camera in the operating room,” says Zondervan, who attends the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) in East Lansing. “It would open so many doors for education and knowledge-sharing.”

Over the next year, he worked with MSU’s Spartan Innovations, a startup incubator that helps support entrepreneurs, to develop the CleanCase, a clear, disposable phone case that can be used in the operating room.

Robert Zondervan, OMS IV

The phone case is the first product to be distributed by Zondervan’s SteriDev medical startup, which he established in 2015. “The best person to develop a solution is often the one who’s having the problem,” he says.

Entrepreneurial education

Zondervan is in a unique position to document and study the challenges he observes in the operating room–he’s completing coursework toward a DO degree and a PhD in physiology, with plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Interested in learning the basics of business involved with managing a medical practice, Zondervan took an Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at MSU, which led to development of his business model for SteriDev. “When I told my colleagues about my idea for CleanCase, they told me to run with it,” he says.

Zondervan was able to develop, design and manufacture the CleanCase through funding from Spartan Innovations; The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), an economic development corporation; and Quantum Medical Concepts, the investment arm of the Michigan State Medical Society. The product will be piloted in Michigan hospitals by the spring of 2017.

A model of SteriDev's CleanCase.

Limitless opportunities

CleanCase will enable surgeons to interact and share knowledge in real time, according to Zondervan. “The case preserves all the functionality of a mobile device,” he says. “You can reference X-rays, view medical records and access CT scans, all within the sterile operating field.”

More patients are requesting documentation of their surgeries than ever before, Zondervan adds. “As osteopathic physicians, we strive to provide hands-on, comprehensive care,” he says. “This is one more way we can meet our patients’ needs.”

SteriDev’s current CleanCase model is designed for iPhone 6. To learn more, visit the SteriDev website or follow Zondervan on Twitter.

One comment

  1. Jenna Dionisio

    I’m very impressed! not only with your innovation of this phone case but that you balance your pursuit of 2 degrees with carrying your invention idea out through to product.

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