April 9, 2024

UCalgary alumni collaborate on mission to enhance care of underserved communities with PurposeMed

Caley Shukalek is driven to provide compassionate, specialized care through virtual health services
Dr. Caley Shukalek smiles in his white coat and stethoscope
Cody Coates, University of Calgary

Canadians have the right to reasonable access to health services, but some struggle with access to specialized care. Virtual health care is increasingly filling some of that gap, allowing for an effective delivery of care and efficient communication between patients and health-care providers.

PurposeMed is a growing virtual health company co-founded by University of Calgary alums Dr. Husein Moloo, MD’13, and Pete MacLeod, BSc’12. Moloo was inspired to create a virtual health technology for underserved populations in need of specialized care through his family medicine practice. He partnered with MacLeod to create a company focused on supporting those in need. Dr. Caley Shukalek, MD’14, and Moloo attended medical school together at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), and as informal text messages evolved to conversations about service offerings, Shukalek eventually became PurposeMed’s chief medical officer.

Shukalek is a physician and a clinical assistant professor in the CSM supporting patients in the 2SLGBTQI+ community. His research specializes in sexual health and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. 

Cody Coates, University of Calgary

PurposeMed connects patients with specialized clinicians to receive compassionate care from home. The company currently offers three virtual service brands: Freddie for HIV prevention and care; Frida for the diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD; and the Foria Clinic specializing in trans health with the provision of gender-affirming care and hormone therapy. All PurposeMed services are supported through a partnership with Affirming Care Pharmacy

“Access to trans health is a huge, underserved area, and we need health providers to offer that care in a compassionate way,” says Shukalek. “It is important to understand the medicine and the community context of helping a person to live as their true gender.”

Virtual care can be safer and is more accessible, especially to the 2SLGBTQI+ community who can face unfair treatment and discrimination in health care, and PurposeMed provides this to patients. Alberta Health Services is striving to support safe access to care for the 2SLGBTQI+ community through its own education and awareness initiatives.

“As a gay man in the queer community, with lots of friends looking to access HIV prevention services, I know that access to this and other general sexual health supports was an issue for the queer community,” says Shukalek. “Lack of access or non-affirming care just isn't fair. It isn't right and wanting to create access is what led to the creation of Freddie.”

All three service brands operate within various Canadian provinces, with the goal to expand PurposeMed nationally and into the United States. Shukalek also received the 2023 Business Leader of the Year award from Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce for his work with the company.

A white baseball hat with the Freddie logo sits on a table in a hospital room

PurposeMed connects patients with specialized clinicians to receive compassionate care from home. The company offers three virtual service brands including Freddie for HIV prevention and care.

Cody Coates, University of Calgary

PurposeMed’s journey is one that has been supported by the UCalgary innovation ecosystem. The team received a early-stage startup investment from the UCeed Health Fund, which helped lead to further funding and support from Alberta Innovates and Prairies Economic Development Canada.

Mentorship has been integral to the success of PurposeMed, received through UCalgary’s UCeed, the first and largest philanthropically driven, university-based investment fund of its kind in Canada. Mentorship was also received from organizations dedicated to supporting Canadian tech companies including the C100’s Fellowship and Lazaridis ScaleUp at Wilfred Laurier University. The company is in the current cohort of the Haskayne Scaleup program powered by the Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies at UCalgary and is now working with their mentors.

“I'm trained as a physician. No one taught me about business in school, but this experience really has led to massive personal and professional growth for me,” says Shukalek, adding he’s thankful for the mentorship offered by UCalgary and many others along the journey.

“I've had some great formal mentors and I'm lucky because formal mentorship doesn't always work the way you want it to. I've also had the most amazing organic mentorship and been encouraged to take all the things I am working on and bring them close together, allowing for focus so you can be most effective in your endeavours.” 

Caley Shukalek is a clinical assistant professor in the departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and a member of the CSM’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health. He is a physician with Alberta Health Services.

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