Derek Pupello: Tech Incubator Evolving Surgical Training Lab

Why Derek is a big deal: As Tampa Bay economic development executives hone in on disruptive health technology as a key driver of future local growth, Pupello and his foundation will likely be key players in the process. His organization employs 22 and had $3 million in revenue last year.

What are you most proud of about opening the first private surgical training lab in Tampa?

It was a huge undertaking but I knew there was a need for this so I convinced my board back in 2007 to give me the go-ahead. We opened a relatively small lab funded through some donations and reserve funds. It was bootstrapped and I did what I could to keep the costs down without sacrificing quality.

You have an entrepreneurial effort under way. Can you tell us more?

The nature of having a research lab and working with so many brilliant physicians has led to several patentable ideas that we intend to pursue and develop. We are in the process of setting up a tech incubator of sorts to house and develop these technologies. This is something that I’ve thought about for a while. As the new company gets off the ground we will eventually need to hire some support staff and additional engineers and programmers.

What inspires your team at the Foundation?

One of the most effective things is for our staff to see our research that gets presented at national conferences first-hand. They see that real impact our work makes on medicine. I also try my best to empower my employees to be as successful as they can be in their job by giving them autonomy, removing roadblocks and supporting their development.

What is your best recruiting resource when you need to hire?

We usually post ads on various sites like but we’ve had recent success with LinkedIn.

What is the most impressive thing you have seen one of your employees do in the past year?

Working with surgeons means we get many requests and the word “no” does not typically work. One of our course directors wanted to do a fundraiser for wounded soldiers within the course we put on for him this year. It was new territory. This also happened to be our largest course, which is a huge undertaking itself, and now we had to figure out a way to incorporate a fundraising concert within the course. My education director Mindy Gregory somehow figured out a way to keep all the plates spinning and she and her staff executed it flawlessly.

How did you get started in your current career?

I started as an intern in the research department of the Florida Orthopaedic Institute in 2002. Dr.Mark Frankle offered me a job after the internship to help him with some groundbreaking research, which is where I cut my teeth, and learned a lot about orthopaedics.

What would you do if you weren’t doing what you do?

Probably something more in the creative realm. I love film and I used to be more involved in producing short films with a couple buddies of mine and it was a blast.
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Brandon Santoni & Derek Pupello

Brandon Santoni, director of research and Derek Pupello, CEO, Foundation for Orthopaedic Research and Education, setting up the Bionix test machine for a biomechanical experiment.

FORE Pelvic Fracture Fixation

Foundation for Orthopaedic Research and Education, with doctors from around the world in an orthopedic surgical training simulation. They are performing a pelvic fracture fixation.

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