sealPurdue Health Briefs

April 1999

Product for women wins entrepreneurial contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- Women who suffer from urinary incontinence will benefit from the invention that took the $20,000 top prize in the 1999 Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition at Purdue University.

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The "Femate," a biofeedback device for exercising the pelvic floor muscle, is the winner of the 12th annual competition. Six teams presented business plans along with product prototypes to three judges during the final round of competition March 6.

Christoph Weismayer from Vienna, Austria, a Krannert School of Management graduate now studying medical sociology at Purdue, walked away with this year's top prize of $20,000 and free office space for one year in the Purdue Research Park, an incubator facility for start-up businesses.

The device was developed and patented by two Austrian physicians and has been clinically tested in Europe. The portable product, about the size of a hand-held calculator, measures the effectiveness of pelvic Kegel exercises and can be used in conjunction with medication to treat female patients with urinary incontinence. The Kegel exercise is done by contracting the pelvic muscles and holding the contraction for a certain amount of time.

"Millions of women suffer from incontinence as they age or after childbirth," Weismayer says. "Treatment is limited to Kegel exercises, medication, covering up the problem with adult diapers, or an invasive surgery. Our product goes to the root of the problem by strengthening the pelvic floor muscle that controls the flow of urine."

Weismayer says he will use the prize money to pursue U.S. distribution of the product.

The entrepreneurship competition was started by Morgan in 1987 to help Purdue students develop an appreciation of the free market system and the role of the entrepreneur in a market economy. Morgan, a resident of Hudson, Ohio, and a Purdue alumnus, has started more than 50 companies, and six have become major corporations.

This year's total prize money jumped to $30,000 from $8,000 in 1998. Organizers hope to more than double the amount of prize money for next year.

CONTACT: Shailendra Raj Mehta, contest coordinator and director of the Krannert Entrepreneurship Initiative, (765) 494-5703;

Patients better than doctors at predicting their health

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the journal article is available from Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Patients, especially African-Americans, are better at predicting their future health than are their doctors, according to a Purdue University study.

"People assume that doctors are superior at knowing the health risks of their patients," says Kenneth Ferraro, a professor of sociology who studies the aging process. "However, we found that the patients' reports of their own health were more valid."

The discrepancy was greatest for African-American patients. Ferraro says it's well documented that various ethnic groups present themselves differently in health-care settings. "It might be that African-Americans are giving their doctors less information about their health," he says.

It's also true, based on research in hospital emergency rooms, that doctors look differently at different patients. "A patient's appearance and other factors can color the way he or she is treated," Ferraro says.

His study, reported in the April issue of American Sociological Review, analyzed health data collected nationally from nearly 7,000 persons between 1971 and 1975. Those studied were initially between 25 and 74 years old, and their health was tracked for up to 15 years.

When the data first were collected, the respondents filled out questionnaires about their health and also underwent extensive health examinations by doctors.

Ferraro then compared the information to predict the health outcomes of the patients. He found that the disease information provided by the patients was a better predictor of health than that supplied by the physicians. While the difference was modest for white patients, the physician examinations did not predict African-American health well at all.

"Doctors really depend on patients for a lot of information," Ferraro says. "The more descriptive you can be about your health, the better the doctor can do his job."

CONTACT: Ferraro, (765) 494-4707,

Compiled by Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


Christoph Weismayer, winner of the 1999 Burton Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition at Purdue, explains his product to the judges. The "Femate" is a portable exercise device to help women who suffer from urinary incontinence. (Photo by John Underwood, Purdue Center for Instructional Services)

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Morgancomp2

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